Countdown to the end of the world: Examining Jesus' prophetic parable of Matthew 22
by Steve Sterling 11/29/2011 / Prophecy
Jesus' parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22 is in fact a prophetic countdown of events from the time of Israel to the end of the world. Contrary to what evangelicals would have us believe, among the things that are predicted in that parable is the rejection of the Jews as a nation. As we examine the parable we will get a peek into the future and see how God's eternal purpose will be accomplished despite the reluctance of those He once cherished as His peculiar treasure.
The parable started out in this manner: "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. And 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." Matt. 22:2-6
The parable of the wedding invitation is a prophecy of the gospel commission. The gospel proclamation is represented as being carried by servants that were sent to those who were bidden to the wedding. In other words, the message was directed only to a particular set of people who were specially invited to this occasion. The message that was sent out is not a message of invitation to the wedding; the people were already bidden to the marriage. The servants were sent out to tell those people who were already invited that everything is ready; that they can now come in to the wedding.
However, when the call was made, instead of coming to the wedding, they made light of it and busy themselves with their own affairs. They had no interest in attending this marriage ceremony, and so they show a great deal of indifference to the servants' call. But when the call grows loader and more persistent, the people became disgusted and started to treat them spitefully to the point of murdering some of them.
For those who are at least average in their knowledge of prophecy should know that this parable is an obvious reference to the Jewish people. Because they were already chosen in Abraham, through circumcision, they can be considered as being bidden to the wedding. Simply put, the only thing that each Israelite needed to do to accept the invitation to this wedding is to be born the seed of Abraham. Israel didn't need to make any profession of faith in order for them to be considered the people of God. But because of the unsanctified condition of the people, there was a need for reformation and this is where the call to the wedding comes in.
Therefore, from time to time God would send His prophets to Israel to call them from their waywardness to a life of obedience. For centuries God has been making tireless efforts to bring His people from a religion of legalism to one that will bring them into a meaningful relationship with Him. By dispatching his servants, the prophets, God intends to get the children of Abraham to understand that godliness is more than about participating in the sacrificial service.
As we are aware, the warnings and entreaties of the prophets did not only go unnoticed but was met with enmity and violence. The result of Israel's hatred for the call to the wedding feast was summed up by Christ in the following lamentation against the Jewish nation:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Matt. 23:37
From the time that Israel became a nation, the message of peace was confined to the sons and daughters of Abraham. It was not intended for the heathen nations except if they wish to become a part of the commonwealth of Israel by circumcision, and to practice the laws of Moses. That the message must first be sent out to the Jews is clearly stated in the following passages:
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. 10:5-7
"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." Rom. 1:16
When God saw that the Jews will not respond to the call to repent and reform; when He saw the cruelty with which they treated the prophets that was sent unto them, His anger was kindled. Therefore, the people of Israel was forsaken and their house was left unto them desolate (Matt. 23:38).
This is how the parable continues: "But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city." Matt. 22:7
The judgment of the Lord was executed upon Jerusalem when the Roman army laid siege against the city and subsequently razed it to ruins. This event took place in AD70 and it fulfills the parable in no uncertain terms. It was then that the gospel went fully to the Gentiles as a result of the work the apostolic bretheren who fled the city of Jerusalem before its destruction. Thus the parable continues:
"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." Matt. 22:8-10
Notice the language that is used in the command to go into the highways: "as many as ye find, bid to the marriage." Unlike the case with Israel, this is a set of people who are just getting the invitation to the wedding. Whereas the Israelites were bidden by birth and circumcision, the Gentiles were actually invited. In the church today you have both good and bad; they all received the invitation and come to the wedding. But when the wedding became furnished with guests, something significant happened as the parable went on:
"And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen." Matt. 22:11-14
The wedding garment in question is a symbol of the righteousness of the saints (Rev. 19:8). Because there were good and bad in the church, there will be a need to separate the wheat from the tares in order for it to be purified. Thus, the Father will do an examination of each individual to see if they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Some will appear holy on the outside and many will be fooled into thinking that they are genuine and true. But under the searching scrutiny of divine investigation every man's character will be revealed for what it is.
This marriage supper spoken of in the parable is referring the one in Revelation 19. Based on the narrative development of this chapter, the Lamb's wife (His people) has already made herself ready. The readiness of the church must be accomplished before the Second coming. When the work of examination of characters are finished, it will then be known who have passed the test of divine scrutiny and who will be cast into outer darkness. It is after the Lamb's wife was declared ready that the world will come to an end, and Christ will then be seen on a white horse coming in the clouds of heaven (Rev. 19:11) to receive His bride.