The Parable of the Wedding Banquet… Revisited

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The Parable of the Wedding Banquet… Revisited

James R. Aist

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

As I read through Matthew’s account of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), I find that a natural reading of it tells me that this is an historically sweeping parable that represents the Kingdom of God from Old Testament times (Part 1), through the times of the early Christian church (Part 2), and right up to the time of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:5-9)(Part 3). Now you may already have a different take on this parable, but if you will humor me for a few moments, I will illustrate why I have come to this conclusion. To do this, I will reproduce (in bold lettering) this parable as it occurs in Matthew’s Gospel, and insert (in parentheses, with italics) my understanding below each portion as it comes up.

Part 1 – Old Testament times

Jesus spoke to them again by parables, saying, “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 , but they would not come. 

(As I see it, this is a largely parallel scenario to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, where, here, Jesus represents the son. The servants represent the Old Testament prophets, who were sent to call to the wedding ceremony those who were already invited: that is, God’s chosen people, the Jews, to whom the Gospel message was first given (Acts 13:45-46); hence, “those who were already invited.” But, they refused to come.)

“Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited: See, I have prepared my supper. My oxen and fattened calves are killed, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

(In this passage, its like God is saying to the Jews, “I have done all that is necessary for you to come in and enjoy the wedding banquet with me. I have already promised you a Messiah who will come to save you from your sins, so come now and rejoice with Me.”

But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his business; the rest took his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. When the king heard about it, he was angry. He sent in his army and destroyed those murderers and burned up their city.

(The Jews mistreated and even killed the prophets of God. For this offense, Jesus prophecies that God will send in an army to destroy and burn their Holy City, Jerusalem, which prophecy was fulfilled by the Roman army in 70 AD. Many scoffed and mocked the invitation, while others were too busy with worldly matters to take heed. But, sadly, the Jews failed again to come to the Wedding Banquet.)

Part 2 – Early Christian Church

Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the streets, and invite to the wedding banquet as many as you find.’ 10 So those servants went out into the streets and gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

(After delivering the Good News to the Jews first, and being largely rebuffed, God sent Christian evangelists out to deliver the Good News to the Gentiles. All were invited to the banquet, whether righteous believers or unrighteous nonbelievers. And they packed out the wedding venue!)

Part 3 – Marriage Supper of the Lamb

But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man who was not wearing wedding garments. He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding garments?’ And he was speechless.

(All the righteous in attendance were clothed in “wedding garments.” At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the believers will wear white garments, which will be representative of their righteous deeds (Revelation 19:8). By extension, then, only the ones in white garments at the Wedding Banquet were qualified to be there. But one person there had on regular street clothes. He was not a believer, and he had no clue why he managed to get past the guards and into the banquet hall. He probably didn’t even know that he was not really supposed to be there. Perhaps he was a “churchgoer” who had not been “born again” (click HERE).

Then the king told the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

(Because this man had never accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he was bound and cast out of the banquet hall and into the Lake of Fire, the Second Death (Revelation 20:14) as his just recompense for the sins he had committed (Romans 6:23). Remember that Jesus said, Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name?’ But then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice evil.’ (Matthew 7:22-23).

For many are called, but few are chosen.

(A great multitude, of both Jews and Gentiles, has been able to hear and respond to the Gospel invitation, but only those whom God has chosen for salvation have accepted it. These alone, the ones that Jesus “knew”, will be allowed to participate in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. To more fully appreciate the biblical foundation for my understanding of this verse, click HERE.)

And, here’s the Good News for you: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:19). It would be awesome to have you enjoy the Marriage Supper of the Lamb with us!

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

On Tithes, Offerings and Psalm 50

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On Tithes, Offerings and Psalm 50

James R. Aist

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

I don’t know if you are aware of it, but there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not the Old Testament practice of “tithing” applies to the New Testament church, that is, to you and me. I used to believe that it does, and, in the past, I have referenced Malachi 3:8-10 in support of that viewpoint while soliciting, as a Pastor, “tithes” and offerings during church services.

Later on, I began to question this practice and conducted my own research into the matter, starting with the Old Testament. Here are the most pertinent points from that investigation: 1) the “tithe” in the Old testament was God’s way of providing for the priests, who had no land inheritance from which to make their own living; 2) this “tithe” was one-tenth of the increase from the harvest; and 3) the “tithe” was not optional, but compulsory, both in the amount and the timing. In fact, it was so compulsory that God said that if one did not pay the full amount at the designated intervals, one was robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10)! That is a most serious and solemn indictment, and it was a non-negotiable requirement of the system of tithing before Jesus came on the scene.

Then I moved on to the New Testament, where I came to realize the following: 1) the “tithe” is mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23), but as a requirement for Jews, not Christians; 2) instead, we are told to give according to our means, whatever amount we purpose in our own hearts, and to do so cheerfully and without compulsion (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:10-12 and 9:7). Moreover, we are instructed, “On the first day of the week let every one of you lay in store, as God has prospered him, so that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Here again, we see instruction to give according to our means, but also to set aside our “increase” so that it will actually be available to give freely when the time comes, without having to be asked for it! That is good stewardship of our finances.

These instructions for “giving” bear little resemblance to the Old Testament system of the “tithe.” In my opinion, if “tithing” was to be a carry-over from the Old Testament, then the New Testament would have made reference to it concerning Christians, especially gentile Christians. But, it does not. When Jesus came, He ushered in a new and a better system of giving, one based not on compulsion, but on willing, “thankful hearts” (cf. Psalm 50:14-15). Where hearts have been changed by Jesus, giving is not a duty, but a blessing (Acts 20:35) and a privilege, and a sign of faith in God’s provision (Philippians 4:19)! In my opinion, it is inappropriate to invoke the Old Testament tithing system to coerce, as it were, giving by Christians. That amounts to giving with, not without, compulsion. That said, giving one-tenth of your increase to the Lord is the only mathematical formula in the Bible as a target amount for giving, and that seems to me to be a reasonable, minimal target for the New Testament church.

While I’m on the topic, there are several other issues I have concerning how “tithes” and offerings may be wrongly solicited. First, it has become an occasional practice, in some Christian circles, to declare that “God doesn’t need your money”, just before asking you to give Him your money! That makes no sense at all to me, zero. Then, Psalm 50:7-13 may be cited to lend biblical support to the idea that God doesn’t need your money. The problem here is that there is not one word in these verses concerning the giving of “tithes and offerings”; it is only about “ritual sacrifices and burnt offerings”, which is a whole different matter. So, does God need your money? The answer to this question is both “No” and “Yes.” For God to exist and function as God, it is true that He does not need our money, as Psalm 50:9-13 clearly implies. But, for the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to be accomplished, He does need our money, by His own design; enlisting us to get it done requires money, and lots of it. The second issue I have in this context has to do with trying to purchase the blessings of God with an offering. If you are admonished to “not come to the altar ’empty handed’ if you expect to receive a blessing from God”, then you may want to just keep your money and leave. God already wants to prosper us (Psalm 35:27), and He is not in the extortion business! And third, I believe it is a mistake to pronounce a “pass” on giving to those who are barely able to make ends meet just to break even at the end of the month. Why? Because God has promised to reward everyone who gives with more than they have given (Luke 6:38). So, when you excuse the poor from giving – even a small coin that they really can do without – you are getting in the way of a blessing of increase that God wants to provide for them also. After all, they are the very ones who need such an increase the most, are they not?

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

The God of “New Things”

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The God of “New Things”

James R. Aist

“Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. See, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not be aware of it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19a)

The more I study the Bible, the more I am impressed with the value and importance of gaining a greater perspective on the nature and ways of God. Isaiah wrote, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). My belief is also that God’s ways are higher than our thoughts. Throughout the history of mankind, from the Garden of Eden until now, God has been at work doing things that He has never done before, things that mankind has never heard of before, things that mankind could not have even imagined He might do. These “new things” always surprise us, but God has His entire plan in His mind already, for He declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-11). The purpose of my writing this article is to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is, in fact, the God of “new things”, that He has already done many “new things”, that He is doing “new things” now, that He will continue to do “new things”, and that we need not be afraid to embrace and participate in these “new things.” In fact, God characteristically invites us to join Him in some of the “new things” He is doing today. Now, let’s take a brief look at some of these “new things”, in order to gain a clearer perspective on this important characteristic of our God.

First, let’s consider a few of the “new things” that God has already done, beginning with the Old Testament:

  • God creates Eve from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:21-22);
  • God sends “bread” from heaven (Exodus 16:11-35);
  • God makes water gush from a rock (Numbers 20:11);
  • A burning bush is not consumed (Exodus 3:1-4);
  • A donkey speaks (Numbers 22:28);
  • A snake on a stick is used to heal snake bites (Numbers 21:8-9);
  • City walls suddenly tumble down under their own weight (Joshua 6:5).

Next, let’s have a look at some more of God’s “new things”, as recorded in the New Testament:

  • Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit, rather than by a man (Luke 1:35);
  • Two men walk on water (Matthew 14:25-26);
  • God the Father raises Jesus from the dead, without human involvement (Galatians 1:1);
  • The Holy Spirit begins to indwell believers as they are saved (Ezekiel 26:27, Ephesians 1:13-14, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 1 John 4:13-15);
  • The Holy Spirit is, henceforth, poured out on all people, not just a few Prophets (Acts 2:17);
  • Items of Paul’s clothing bring healing and deliverance, from a distance (Acts 19:12);
  • A coin from a fish’s mouth is used to pay the tax (Matthew 17:27); and,
  • Mud made from spit and dust is used to restore a man’s sight (John 9:5-7).

Finally, here are some of the “new things” that God will do in the future:

  • Jesus will come again, in the air, to gather the saints to Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17);
  • Evildoers will be cut off and banished to the Lake of Fire forever (Psalm 7:9; Revelation 19:19-21; Revelation 20:10, 14-15);
  • God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5); and,
  • God will make all things new (Revelation 21:5).

Do not fear, Only Believe

As you can see, the God of the Bible is, manifestly, the God of new things. In fact, everything God has ever done regarding mankind was a “new thing” at some point in history! So, when you encounter a supernatural manifestation, remember that it may really be of God, no matter how strange or bizarre or unnecessary it may seem to be. His ways are higher than our thoughts, and its just like God to do something that is new to us. By all means, test it to see if it is of God (click HERE), and if it is, then don’t be afraid to embrace it. After all, that’s what Jesus would do (John 5:19)!

After Words

Please don’t misunderstand, and assume that I am saying that God will do only “new things” going forward; I am not. Of course He will continue to do many of the things that He has done in the past. For example, God will always be faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), the Father still draws sinners to Jesus (John 6:44), God still works in the saints to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), and Jesus still baptizes believers in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). God Himself does not change (Malachi 3:6), and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). But, He is not confined to doing in the future only those things that He has done in the past. To believe otherwise is to put God in a box, and such a god is not the God of the Bible.

(To read more of my Bible-themed articles, click HERE.)

Keeping the Sabbath

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Keeping the Sabbath

James R. Aist

“For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Jesus

There seems to be some confusion within the modern Christian community concerning the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). We cannot just ignore this commandment, since it is the Fourth of the Ten Commandments, but do we have to follow it, like the Old Testament Jews did? Let’s see if the New Testament provides clear instructions concerning this question.

Jesus’ Teachings

In Matthew 12:8, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The clear implication here is that whatever Jesus said about the Sabbath is true and allowable for all, regardless of prevailing Jewish tradition. Jesus also said that “…it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12).” It would seem to follow, then, that “doing good” would include enjoying the blessings and favor of God on the Sabbath and giving Him praise and glory for them. And, in Mark 2:27, Jesus declared that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the Sabbath was given to benefit man, not to rule over him. Thus, healing the sick, tending livestock, and harvesting grain (to use some of the examples used against Jesus to charge him with breaking the Law), as well as doing any “good” thing, such as teaching in the synagogue (Luke 13:10 and Acts 18:4), are allowed on the Sabbath.

Paul’s Teachings

In Colossians 2:14-21, Paul wrote: “He blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us and contrary to us, and He took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed authorities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore let no one judge you regarding food, or drink, or in respect of a holy day or new moon or Sabbath days. These are shadows of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone cheat you of your reward by delighting in false humility and the worship of angels, dwelling on those things which he has not seen, vainly arrogant due to his unspiritual mind,  and not supporting the head, from which the entire body, nourished and knit together by joints and sinews, grows as God gives the increase. Therefore, if you died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you subject yourself to legalistic rules?  “Do not touch! Do not taste! Do not handle!” These all are to perish with use and are aligned with the commandments and doctrines of men (Italics mine).” Read carefully and you will see three key and telling points made here: 1) Jesus nailed to the cross the traditional, Jewish requirements re. the Sabbath; 2) the traditional, Jewish requirements re. the Sabbath were mere shadows of things to come, so they perished after they had served their purpose among the Old Testament Jews (i.e., when Jesus, who is the substance of these requirements, appeared); and 3) the Sabbath requirements are no longer in effect for those who are in Christ Jesus, including both Jews and Gentiles; they have expired.

Conclusions

So, are we required to follow the practices of the Old Testament Jews concerning the Sabbath? The biblical answer is, emphatically, “No!” [For the record, this is why the New Testament church felt free to change the “worship day” of the Christian church from Saturday to Sunday (Acts 20:7)]. But, does this mean that we should ignore the Sabbath entirely? I don’t think so. God established the seventh day as a day of rest for mankind (Exodus 20:9-10 and 23:12), and as such, a weekly Sabbath would certainly serve us well, in accord with Mark 2:27, and it would be exercising wisdom. Moreover, the Judaic and Christian practice of gathering for worship on the day of rest is a way of obeying Hebrews 10:25 which says, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.” So, let us remember the Sabbath by observing a weekly day of much-needed rest and by assembling together regularly to give God all the glory that is due Him. As Christians, these two practices should be our custom.

(To read more of my biblically based articles, click HERE.)