The Kingdom Is Like a Marriage Feast

The parable of the marriage feast of the king’s son in Matt. 22:1-14 has many similarities to other of Jesus’ parables. It is very transparent and likely was perceived by the Pharisees as having them and the whole Jewish nation in mind. The parable related that a certain king made a marriage feast for his son and servants were sent to those invited to come “for all things are ready.” Those bidden would not come and treated shamefully the king’s servants and killed them. The king was angry and sent his armies, killed the murderers, and burned their city. Then he sent his servants everywhere to invite others to the feast and the wedding was filled with guests, both good and bad. When the king came in to view his guests, he found one outside not having on a wedding garment and the king said, “Friend, how camest thou in hither without a wedding garment? And he was speechless. The king said to the servants, bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness, there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few chosen” (Matt. 22:12-14). From the parable it is evident that the king is God. The king’s son is Jesus. The invited guests are the Jewish nation. The servants shamefully treated and killed were the prophets and apostles. The city burned was Jerusalem. Those in the parting of the highways is all mankind. The wedding feast occurs at the judgment and the guest outside having on the wedding garment is someone who has not clothed himself in the righteousness of God and will be cast into hell.

The parable anticipated that the vast majority of the Jewish nation would reject the Messiah God sent them. Isaiah had written 700 years before Jesus came, “He was despised and rejected of man, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and as one from whom men hid their face, he was despised and we esteemed him not” (Isa. 53:3). John wrote about 60 years after the death of Christ, “He came unto his own and they that were his own received him not” (Jn. 1:11). John wrote that statement “after the fact,” but written prophecy warned of the nation’s rejection of Him before He ever came to earth. Jesus was not surprised by His nation’s rejection of Him. He knew what the nation would do! God did not foreordain the nation would reject His Son, but by His divine power He knew they would. Isaiah was told to prophesy to Judah, warning of dangers that lay ahead of them and to those who would reject God’s warning. He said, “By hearing ye shall hear and shall in no wise understand, by seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross and their ears are dull of hearing and their eyes they have closed: lest haply they should perceive with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and should turn again and I should heal them” (Matt. 13:14-15; cp. Isa. 6:9-10). The people of Isaiah’s day were free moral agents: they, not God “closed their eyes.” They, not God, ”shut their ears.” Isaiah was to preach so that some would take heed to their ways and that a remnant might be saved. Later in Isaiah’s day, a remnant was saved and while carried captive into Babylon, returned 70 years later to their homeland. In the days of the apostles, the vast majority of Israel rejected Jesus, but thousands did receive Him.

There is a theory that Jesus came to establish a kingdom, but because His nation rejected Him and it, He postponed setting that kingdom up until many years later. According to those theorists that kingdom still has not yet been set up, but all of them assure us its arrival is eminent. Those who teach and embrace such a doctrine should remember that there is no such thing as postponed prophecy. According to Moses, if a prophet prophesied something and it didn’t come to pass, that prophet was false (Deut. 18:21-22). The message that John and Jesus both preached was that time was fulfilled and the kingdom of God was at hand (Mk. 1:15). If the time was fulfilled, the days in which John and Jesus lived was the time the Spirit said the kingdom would come. Paul wrote that “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:5-6). Jesus was born in “the fulness of time” — the time the Spirit had predicted. If the kingdom was not established during the days of the apostles, the prophets who prophesied it would be false prophets. Furthermore, Jesus and the apostles were all false teachers because they proclaimed that some of those living in their day would not die until they had seen the kingdom of God come with power (Mk. 9:1).

When Jesus said that the king came and burned the city of the murderers, He spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. In the parable before us, Jesus showed that Jerusalem was to be destroyed. He was more specific when a day or so later He told the apostles that “not one stone would be left one upon another, all shall be cast down” and predicted in great detail the destruction of Jerusalem that some of the apostles would themselves see (Matt. 24:1-2). The prophecy of Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:14 is fulfilled prophecy. It is something past, not future.

Still, part of the parable is future: the marriage feast of the King’s son. That event is prophesied of in Rev. 19:9 and 21:11-12. Wedding garments in Jesus’ day were provided by those who invited the guests, so when the king surveyed his guests and found one without a wedding garment, He asked, “Friend, how camest thou in without a wedding garment?” He could also be indignant that the guest came to the feast without the garment which had been provided for him. He had no answer; he was speechless. That wedding garment represents the salvation that God freely gave all mankind through His Son. All are invited and ample provisions are made for all to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb. What a tragedy that they should reject that invitation and the wedding garment our Lord has provided for them!

Jim McDonald