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)

The Parable of the Prodigal Sheep

The Parable of the Prodigal Sheep

James R. Aist

Perhaps when you read the title of this article you thought to yourself, “Doesn’t he mean the lost sheep?” After all, that’s the way the later-added, extra-biblical headings refer to this parable. And, in my experience, this parable is commonly used to refer to God pursuing unbelievers until they have been drawn all the way to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, God does exactly that (John 6:44), but is that what this particular parable is really about? Let’s take a closer look, and find out.

Jesus said, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search for the one which went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine which never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:12-14).

Notice that the scene opens with the man actually owning 100 sheep. If he has them, then he owns them; these sheep belong to this man. Moreover, if this man did not already own these sheep, then none of them could actually go astray, because the man would have no rightful claim to them in the first place. So, right away, we can see that this is a parable about, not a wild sheep belonging to no one, but a prodigal sheep belonging to the man.

Having this perspective, then, let’s proceed to what I believe to be the correct spiritual meaning of this parable: It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones whom the Father has given Me (John 10:29) should perish. Jesus is the man in the parable. Now we can see that the parable of the lost sheep is really about the Father pursuing a backslider that He has already saved until he is brought back into the lifestyle and fellowship of the saints who are following Jesus. And, that is exactly why He will raise all of them up on the Last Day (John 6:39), not just the ones who didn’t backslide!

Now, if you will indulge me for a few moments more, I want to make a point of comparison. If you will take a look at the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-28, you will see that it begins in a fashion similar to the parable of the lost sheep: “A man had two sons.” They were his sons throughout the parable, and when the prodigal son returned to his father, he was reinstated, not adopted, into his father’s household. Although these two parables differ in detail, there are many parallels. Perhaps now you can better understand why I chose to say “prodigal sheep” in the title of this article.

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

Spiritual Encounters with God: A Witness, Two Prophecies and a Parable

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Spiritual Encounters with God: A Witness, Two Prophecies and a Parable

 James R. Aist

‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” – Acts 2:17

Introduction

This is the final article in a three-part series on “Spiritual Encounters with God.” You can read the first two articles HERE and HERE. They describe visions, voices, and dreams that I have experienced and understand to be direct communications from God to me. In this article, I describe three other personal encounters with God: the witness of the Holy Spirit, as mentioned in the Bible, two words of prophecy I received concerning my children and a renter, and a parable illustrating the sanctification process. Such spiritual encounters with God are not uncommon among contemporary, born-again Christians, and they are certainly not unique to me by any means. In fact, I believe that, because the Holy Spirit is present in all true believers, all of us have spiritual encounters with God of one sort or another. We just don’t always perceive them as such. Among Pentecostal and Charismatic believers, such personal, revelational encounters with God are commonly referred to as “Rhema.” As you are reading, please keep in mind that God interacts with each of His born-again children however He chooses, and one’s lack of a corresponding spiritual encounter with God does not lessen the validity of another’s.

That said, let’s jump right into the remaining four of my spiritual encounters with God: a witness, two prophecies and a parable.

A Promised Witness

This encounter happened in the mid-1980s, when my first wife and I were struggling with an impending divorce. For me, these were times of incredible stress, anxiety and depression. I could see my most cherished dreams – dreams of a lifelong marriage, a stable and lasting family life, and three children brought up to know and love God – I could see all of that disintegrating before my very eyes. And there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I had already tried everything I could think of, to no avail.

It was when I was at my lowest point, crying out for relief from the stress and confusion, that Satan literally spoke into my mind one day, as if he were sitting on my left shoulder. He said “Jesus isn’t the son of God. You don’t really believe that he is, do you? Look at how much stress that’s causing you. Why don’t you give up on that and just go along with the flow? That will make things a lot easier for you.” And he kept repeating the same message, over and over. But, whenever he would say this to me, something interesting would happen inside of me. The Holy Spirit would simply speak into my mind saying “You believe that Jesus is the son of God. Don’t ever let go of that; it’s the most important thing you have left.” When this spiritual battle between Satan and the Holy Spirit was over, I was still holding on to my faith in Jesus: Satan was defeated!

I found out later that this internal witness of the Holy Spirit was a direct fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in John 15:26, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me…” And Romans 8:16 says “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” That witness of the Holy Spirit was the only thing that got me through that dark and sinister time of testing. What’s more, that witness of the Holy Spirit helped me hold on to the only real friend I had at that time, Jesus Christ. I believe that Proverbs 18:24 is speaking of Jesus when it says “… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

The lessons I learned from this encounter with God are these: When everything and everyone else has failed you, remember that you still have Jesus. He is all you need to see you through! And, the Holy Spirit in you will ensure that Jesus will remain your friend no matter what, or who, attacks your faith.

A Prophecy of Promise

In mid-June of 1992, I was at the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International Men’s Advance at Lake George in upstate New York. One day when they were baptizing some of the participants, in the lake, I stepped forward to be immersed by Pastor Don Yarborough. We had never met, and he knew nothing about me. As I approached him in the water, he just stared at me straight in the eye with a blank look, and kept staring. I thought to myself, “That’s strange; he doesn’t seem to even see me coming.” Finally, as I drew near to him, he reached out his hand to me, we shook hands and I introduced myself. Then he said that something very unusual had just happened; it had happened only once before in his ~20 years of baptizing people.

He said that as I was approaching him in the water, he received a prophecy for me, in the form of several Bible passages from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. They all had to do with the head of the household being saved and all of his family with him. He then proceeded to share with me all five of those Bible verses. When he had finished with that, he gave me the interpretation: God wants me to stand on and hold fast to these promises, which he is confirming to me and my children. Wow! Through this prophecy, God had just told me that all of my children will be saved! Needless to say, I was a “happy camper” the rest of that meeting.

Now, as it turns out, my daughter, Liesel, was visiting with me later that month. She knew nothing of the prophecy I had received just a few days earlier. The day before she left to go home, we were having a discussion about the things of God, and, to my utter amazement, she asked me if I had ever received any indication from God as to whether or not she would someday become a Christian! I was, for a moment, speechless. How in the world did she even know to ask me that? When I regained my composure, I told her about this prophecy. She was visibly pleased and very encouraged to find this out. God had arranged a “divine appointment” for sure!

About five years later, Liesel was, tragically, struck and killed by an automobile while crossing an intersection. In the days just before and after her death, I learned – from two, independent, reliable witnesses – that during the two weeks prior to the accident, she had given testimony of her faith in Jesus! God is good, and He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

A Prophecy of Provision

I received and gave this prophecy in the late 1990s when my wife, Janet, and I were renting our basement apartment to a veterinary student at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Her name is Penny. She had developed a pattern of not having enough money to fully cover the next month’s rent, and we always worked with her to pay the balance in a couple of weeks, and she always did. But, Penny was embarrassed to always have to ask us to extend this grace to her. One morning, when the rent was due in full the next day, she came upstairs and knocked on the basement door. When I opened the door, I saw that she had been crying. She came into our living room and, tearfully, explained that this time she didn’t have any rent money, and asked us to let her pay the full amount, $300, in two weeks. So we comforted her and agreed to let her be two weeks late for the full amount. She was relieved and very grateful as she returned to the apartment. After seeing her to the door, I turned and walked back into the living room. My wife and I looked at each other, said something to the effect that we are, after all, able to carry her debt for two weeks, and were about to get on with our daily routine, satisfied that the matter had been settled. Then, suddenly, something stopped me dead in my tracks. God spoke into my mind saying, very clearly, “No, she is going to have the money and will NOT be late with the rent payment!” While I was processing that message in my mind, God spoke again very clearly and with urgency, “Say it out loud, speak it out, now!” So, I made sure my wife was listening and boldly spoke the message out loud, “No, she is going to have the money and will NOT be late with the rent payment!” Then I had the sense that it was this prophecy that really settled the matter.

And, sure enough, that same afternoon, when Penny walked to the mailbox to get the mail, there was an envelope in the mailbox with her name on it. Inside was $300 in cash and a note saying something like , “I just felt that you might need this at this time.” Bam, prophecy fulfilled!

A Parable of the Wood Chips

This encounter with God happened in the early 2000s, and is told in a bit more detail HERE. I had, for many, many years, stacked into two neat and straight rows, the pile of cut and split firewood left in my yard by the dump truck. Then I cleaned up the mess of firewood “trash” that remained on the lawn where the pile of wood had been, and nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened. True to form, I had developed a routine for the tedious, but necessary, task of cleaning up the “trash” after the firewood was stacked. I would begin with the largest pieces, those that were too small to stack with the normal firewood but very easy to spot and gather into a box to use as kindling whenever I needed to build a fire in my wood stove. With those larger pieces removed, I could then more easily spot fragments of a smaller size and gather them into the box. And so on and so forth, until there was nothing left but tiny bits and slivers that I was not even aware of until all of the larger pieces had been removed. I would then rake together as many of these minuscule remnants as possible and deposit them into the trash. Finally — applying the concept of “good enough” — I would declare the project finished, even though, if I looked closely enough, there were still left even tinier fragments that I had not noticed before. Oh well.

One cool, crisp, spring day I was busy cleaning up the trash after stacking the firewood for the next winter. First the larger pieces, those that were easiest to see, then the next-largest pieces that were now, themselves, the easiest to see, and then the still-smaller pieces which had seemingly appeared out of nowhere when all of the just-larger pieces had been removed. Then, I paused briefly to rest and catch my breath. I was standing there, looking out over the “debris field” and thinking about how I could see the next-smaller pieces only after the just-larger pieces had been removed, when God spoke into my mind: “This is exactly how I clean the sins out of your life after you are born again! I begin by showing you the most conspicuous sins. These are the ones you are probably already painfully aware of, but have not yet dealt with for some reason. When these sins have been taken care of, it’s easier for Me to show you the less conspicuous sins, and we set about, together, to deal with those. And with those sins now out of the way too, it’s possible for you to see sins that you didn’t even know were there, and so on.” Wow! I thought I was just was cleaning up the trash in my lawn, but God was showing me how He was cleaning up the trash in my life! We commonly refer to that process as “sanctification”, and the Holy Spirit is in charge of it.

With this article, my three-part account of spiritual encounters with God is complete. I hope you have found them interesting, edifying and encouraging. Perhaps you are eager to discover how God has arranged spiritual encounters with you as well. If you do, you will be blessed. I’m sure of it.

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

A Poignant Parable of Progressive Purification

English: Firewood Español: Leños Français : Bo...A Poignant Parable of Progressive Purification

  James R. Aist

Introduction

A parable is usually understood to be made up of two parts: 1) a simple, down-to-earth story; and 2) a spiritual, moral or religious lesson derived from it. Undoubtedly, the most famous parables in the Christian world were those told by Jesus, who routinely and intentionally taught in parables. The personal revelations that I receive occasionally from God more often come in the form of a vision that conveys some kind of spiritual message or revelation, but many years ago one came to me by way of a real-life, real-time parable. It was about how God, through the working of the Holy Spirit within born-again Christians, goes about the process that we usually refer to as “sanctification”. I hope this story will bless you as much as I was blessed as God showed me this parable when I was smack dab in the middle of it.

The Setting

We were living in Ithaca, NY, at the time. Our home was located “in the country” on Snyder Hill Road, just three miles from the campus of Cornell University. I had the house built to my specifications so as to be inexpensive to heat during the much-too-long and hard upstate New York winters. Besides, we were going to heat the new house with wood, and I didn’t want to stack and fetch any more firewood than necessary during the frigid, blustery heating season. As it turns out, we only needed about one and one-half full cords of wood each winter, which is an amazingly small amount for that region. Nonetheless, every time I had a dump truck deliver a load of cut and split firewood and dump it in a huge pile about 30 feet from my garage, I had a big job ahead of me. The firewood had to be stacked in a neat row, roughly four feet high and as long as there was firewood left to stack.  It took me about three sessions of about one and a half to two hours each to finish the job, and it was hard, physical work, to which I was definitely not accustomed!

The Simple, Down-to-earth Part

Well, I had, for many, many years, stacked the pile of firewood into a neat and straight row and cleaned up the mess of firewood “trash” that remains on the lawn, and nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened. True to form, I had developed a routine for the tedious, but necessary, task of cleaning up the “trash” after the firewood was stacked. I would begin with the largest pieces, those that were too small to stack with the normal firewood but very easy to spot and gather into a box to use as kindling whenever I needed to build a fire in my wood stove. With those larger pieces removed, I could then more easily spot fragments of a smaller size and gather them into the box. And so on and so forth, until there was nothing left but tiny bits and slivers that I was not even aware of until all of the larger pieces had been removed. I would then rake together as many of these minuscule remnants as possible and deposit them into the trash. Finally — applying the concept of “good enough” — I would declare the project finished, even though, if I looked closely enough, there were still left even tinier fragments that I had not noticed before. Oh well.

The Spiritual Lesson Part

So, one crisp, spring day I was busy cleaning up the trash after stacking the firewood for the next winter. First the larger pieces, those that were easiest to see, then the next-largest pieces that were now, themselves, the easiest to see, and then the still-smaller pieces which had seemingly appeared out of nowhere when all of the just-larger pieces had been removed. Then, I paused briefly to rest and catch my breath. I was standing there, looking out over the “debris field” and thinking about how I could see the next-smaller pieces only after the just-larger pieces had been removed, when it hit me.  This is exactly how God cleans the sins out of our lives after we are born again! He begins by showing us the most conspicuous sins. These are the ones we are probably already painfully aware of, but have not yet dealt with for some reason. When these sins have been taken care of, it’s easier for Him to show us the less conspicuous sins, and we set about, together, to deal with those. And with those sins now out of the way too, it’s possible for us to see sins that we didn’t even know were there, and so on. Wow! I thought I was just was cleaning up the trash in my lawn, but God was showing me how He was cleaning up the trash in my life!

The After Word

Who would have ever imagined that such a simple task as cleaning up the trash left by a pile of firewood could produce a spiritual lesson of such magnitude?! But isn’t it just like God to teach us through the routine things of life, if we will just pause and meditate now and then?

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)