“And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and [my] fatlings [are] killed, and all things [are] ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of [it], and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated [them] spitefully, and slew [them]. But when the king heard [thereof], he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests,”
The little phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like unto . . . .” appears many times in the gospels. It highlights just how illustrative of the gospel are the common events of life taking place around us and the flora and fauna visible to every eye in the fields of this world!
Yet how man fails to understand the simple principles of the gospel so wonderful set forth by Christ and exemplified all around. It is plain that the God of Creation brought the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars into existence to provide men with graphic pictures of the truth of the revelation in His Word. The whole process of sowing, birth, life, growth, ripening and harvest to be seen yearly in the fields, the garden, aye, even the window boxes of the city dwellings, endorse and ratify what is written in our Bibles.
As the form and system of life repeatedly enacted all around us from the planting of the flower seeds, the building of nests, the gambolling of the delightful lambs each spring, all shout aloud the message of the gospel – “YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN”!! Man who by nature is “dead in trespasses and sins,” (Ephesians 2:1) as a result of mankind’s fall in Adam’s transgression, must be infused with new life before he can ever enter heaven. So said the Lord Jesus. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . . . Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God . . . . Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again,” John 3:3, 5, 7.
Here is this passage the Lord Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to an event which few adults will fail to have some experience and understanding of — preparations for a wedding! The reference to it being the son of a king who is getting married serves only to remind us of the exalted character of the One at the centre of the story of the gospel. It is the God of Heaven Who is here set forth as the One issuing invitations to an event He has prepared for all to come and enjoy.
In setting forth the truths in this passage I am going to use an outline scribbled down in the margin of my Bible. I don’t claim it as mine for I may have copied it from the writings or preaching of someone else. It just might be mine but I am afraid I just don’t recall its origins. Thus I cannot add any name to the outline I am going to use. If it is not mine, I just wish it was!!
I. THE PRIVILEGE OF RECEIVING A GOSPEL INVITATION.
“A certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding.” Such is the nature of the gospel. It is an invitation from a king. Not just a king but THE KING, even the God of Heaven!
1. We are invited to gather to celebrate the union between the King’s Son, the Lord Jesus, and His bride, the elect of God chosen from before the foundations of the earth.
That is what lies behind the whole purpose of God amongst men. The will of God is that sinners be brought into a saving union with Christ. That union is likened unto a ‘marriage union’. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish,” Ephesians 5:25-27. These words set out the whole intention and aspiration of God in the gospel. As the servant of Abraham was sent to seek out a bride for Isaac (Genesis 24:1-58), taking with him tokens of the riches of Abraham which would be enjoyed by any woman who became Isaac’s bride, and as the servant was divinely led to Rebekah (verse 27), so it is with the gospel preacher sent of God to seek a people to be married to Christ in that holy union, displaying by their witness the riches of God’s power and glory and mercy.
Rebekah agreed to enter into marriage with a man she had not seen, but the reports of him given by the servant of Abraham persuaded her to accept the invitation. Even so it is with the Christian. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see [him] not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” 1 Peter 1:8.
Both out from among the Jews and the Gentiles, God is gathering His people. As Paul said, the gospel invitation was directed to both. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Gentile),” Romans 1:16. To Jewish people and also the Gentiles, God issued an invitation. “Then they (Jews) that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,” Acts 2:41-42. “God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name,” Acts 15:14.
2. From this union there comes forth fruit.
The religion of Christ is no dead and barren experience! No, of that union there comes forth fruit. Not just a radically changed life and holy words and works, but the imparting of life to others. Paul said of the Christians at Corinth: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet [have ye] not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel,” 1 Corinthians 4:15. He used the same terminology of Onesimus, calling him a son in the faith. “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds,” Philemon 1:10. In like fashion he claimed Timothy as a spiritual son.“Unto Timothy, [my] own son in the faith,” 1 Timothy 1:2.
Thus the Christians, as a result of their union with Christ, become the source of life to others. The words of Isaiah 8:18 serve to illustrate how it will be one day when we are gathered to Christ at His return. “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me.” There will be a presenting of ourselves and those who, by the mercy of the Lord, we have been the means of bringing from darkness to life in Christ.
3. Dear Christian are you a ‘fruitful vine’?
“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples,” John 15:8. To be fruitful we must obey the words of Christ in that chapter 15 of John’s gospel. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every [branch] that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast [them] into the fire, and they are burned,” John 15:1-6.
These words are plain and need no explanation from me or any preacher!
II. THE PROVISIONS SET FORTH AT THE FEAST.
“Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and [my] fatlings [are] killed, and all things [are] ready.” What a bounty we are invited to partake of. It is a KING’S PROVISION! There is a fulness of good things set before us. So it is in the gospel.
1. There is life for those who are dead.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” 1 Corinthians 15:22. To those dwelling in the chains of darkness and death there is held forth the glorious hope of life and liberty!
2. There is pardon for those condemned to eternal damnation because of their sin.
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” John 3:18. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life,” John 5:24.
Need we say more? I think not. We have but to obey the invitation and eternal life is ours!
3. There is peace and joy for those distressed by the burdens of guilty conscience.
When the Ethiopian believed the gospel it says, “he went on his way rejoicing,” Acts 8:39. So it is with all who obey the gospel. They immediately begin to feast upon the bounty of God’s provision. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1. We have already quoted 1 Peter 1:8 and we do so again. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see [him] not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
4. There is the comfort of knowing that having been united to Christ we will never be separated from Him.
He has said to us: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5. The security here stated is most extensive. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 8:35-39. This truth was David’s comfort, he who was ever threatened by death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever,” Psalm 23:4-6.
So it is with all who have heeded and obeyed the gospel invitation.
III. THE PERVERTED VIEW OF EARTH PROVISIONS HELD BY MANY.
“But they made light of [it], and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.” These are the things men count more important than heeding the Lord and enjoying His open-handed favour.
1. Gospel rejectors make light of God and His mercy.
The word ‘light’ means to count it of no importance at all. That attitude is displayed all around us. The gospel tract is refused, the invitation to a gospel meeting is sneered at, the message of the open-air is disregarded and hastened away from. Thus men show their disdain for God and His word of mercy!
2. Gospel rejectors place great value on the ashes of worldly endeavour.
All around us here in Kilskeery we see the cow elevated above God by men and grass counted of greater value than the gold of eternal salvation! There may be a mocking of the heathen with his ‘deified’ cow, but what difference is there in the dedicated visit to the ’shrine’ of the milking parlour on a Sabbath, without a thought of taking steps to attend God’s house.
3. Gospel rejectors consider trading in the world’s markets more profitable than doing business with God.
This is a time when merchants and trade are rising to the heights of importance. Revelation 18 indicates the wickedly prominent, central position that merchants will occupy in this world’s affairs when Christ returns. We see them and their trade rising toward the heights spoken of in that chapter. Nothing must get in the way of the advance of the mercantile community. Neither God nor His Word nor His people, with their desires to keep and sanctify the Sabbath!
The only trading that will profit us in eternity is spoken of by Isaiah. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for [that which is] not bread? and your labour for [that which] satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye [that which is] good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, [even] the sure mercies of David,” Isaiah 55:1-3.
Be like the Lord Jesus, Who as a boy of twelve said: “I must be about my Father’s business,” Luke 2:49.
4. It is to be noted that cruel persecution is linked to rejection.
“The remnant took his servants, and entreated [them] spitefully, and slew [them].” There was a time in our land when rejectors took some pains to hide their disposition. But it is not so now. A Scottish member of the Edinburgh parliament issued a statement miscalling an English MP. His words were: “If your god exists, you will undoubtedly rot in hell!” A woman whose ‘partner’ was killed while fleeing from the police in Dublin, uttered similar sentiments though such was her language that I cannot quote all she said but I will give one part of it, just as it appeared in press reports. “I can’t believe I’m even writing this with the heaviest heart please just someone slap me this is all a nightmare there is no such thing as god.”
The arrest and prosecution of open-air preachers is becoming more common in England. The arrests arise from people complaining to the police that the words of the preacher, invariably the words of the Bible, are an offence to them. It would appear that the police are only too ready to act upon such frivolous and groundless complaints.
The overvaluing of the affairs of this earth and the undervaluing of the gospel are soon followed by a bold and open attack upon God and His servants.
So it has ever been!
IV. THE PROVOCATION OF GOD THAT REJECTION ENTAILS.
Men can lightly and with laughter reject the gospel. That is not how heaven views rejection! “But when the king heard [thereof], he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.”
1. False Christianity has deceitfully painted a picture of a God without wrath!
Today, we are told that God loves sin! He smiles upon the pervert and the sodomite. The preachers of this ‘gospel’ rail against any who label sodomy as it is branded in the Bible. Ignoring the fact that the words quoted by Bible-believers against sodomy, are the words of God, we are told that such condemnations as employ Bible terminology are ‘acts of hatred’!
Don’t such false preachers know that God hates sin and that He has prepared a place for the sinner to be damned throughout eternity? “Then shall he (Christ) say also unto them (unsaved, gospel-rejecting sinners) on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” Matthew 25:41.
2. The wrath that is reserved for gospel-rejectors is indescribably terrible!
Consider these verses from God’s Word.
“Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: [this shall be] the portion of their cup,” Psalm 11:6.
“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name,” Revelation 14:9-11.
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death,” Revelation 21:8.
Please note the terms which appear in connection with the damnation of the sinful. “Fire and brimstone.” “Tormented with fire and brimstone.” “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” “They have no rest day nor night.” “Burneth with fire and brimstone.”
These terms combined to indicate that the place of punishment reserved for the gospel-rejector is something to flee from with all haste. Heed these words of the gospel and “flee from the wrath to come!” It is to Christ, in obedience to the gospel, we must flee as we are told in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, [even] Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
3. Please note the endlessness of the wrath of God on sinners who reject His mercy.
“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night,” Revelation 14:11. Consider the rhetorical question of Isaiah the prophet.”Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Isaiah 33:14.
Please remember the solemn words of the Lord Jesus in Luke’s gospel. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that [would come] from thence,” Luke 16:22-26.
V. THE PERSISTENCE OF GOD’S PATIENCE AND MERCY.
“Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.”
God, “in wrath” remembers mercy. Many communities and nations have suffered as a result of their rejection of the gospel. The poor Jewish nation is the prime example but there are many others. And yet, the gospel bells still ring out freedom and mercy!
1. The gospel feast will have the unworthy gathered in.
In truth, there is not one who will enter heaven who is worthy to be there. No one merits salvation and heaven. Many think that by their merits they will obtain the eternal mansions of glory. That is the religion of the vast majority of those who would claim to be religious, irrespective of what religion they follow. Their ‘works’ will get them to heaven!
In the Old Testament there was strict stipulation about that which was offered to the Lord as a sacrifice. “Your lamb shall be without blemish,” Exodus 12:5. What was required of the Passover lamb, was required of all sacrifices. They had to be ‘without blemish’.
Now, is there one who can say I have never lied! I have never coveted! I have never stolen anything! Remember the Bible says: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one . . . For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:10, 23. That being so, the best of men can only offer unto God that which is soiled by their sins, that which is ‘blemished’! Such is totally unacceptable and but adds to the sinner’s condemnation!
No, if heaven we would gain it is, as the gospel plainly teaches us, upon the merits of Christ. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” Titus 3:5. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [you] by us: we pray [you] in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Corinthians 5:20-21. On the cross the Saviour was made to bear our sins that we might be pardoned and redeemed.
That is the message of God.
2. Note the persistence required of God’s servants.
In the parable, the king’s servants. “So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found.” Surely the scene is one of the most intense and diligent searching out of sinners. That is what we all need! Paul had ever before him the alternative to the refuge of the gospel reserved for the lost. As Matthew Henry said: “Knowing what terrible vengeance the Lord would execute on the workers of iniquity, the apostle and his brethren used every argument and persuasion, to lead men to believe in the Lord Jesus, and to act as his disciples.” So we must never forget that place of eternal fire to which the unsaved are going as we seek to persuade them to trust Christ.
3. The wedding feast was furnished with guests!
The word ‘furnished’ means ‘filled’. There will be no empty spaces in heaven. Every last one of those that the Lord did “predestinate, them he also called”: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified,” Romans 8:30. The Lord will accomplish that which he decreed from all eternity. Of that we may be sure!
Thus we see something of the Saviour’s message in the parable of the ‘king’s wedding feast’. I must emphasise that it is only ‘something’ for “who is sufficient for these things?”
May the Lord bless these few thoughts to the edifying and elevating your hearts and minds in Christ.
If you have benefitted from this message perhaps you might consider sharing it with loved ones and friends who are not yet saved.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
13th July 2021.