The Parable of the Wedding Feast, Part 2 (Matthew Sermon 108 of 151)
December 06, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Wrath of God, Joy, Imputed Righteousness, Hell, God's Providence and Sovereignty
Well, it's not every day that a story from current events just hands you a tailor-made sermon illustration. But that's what happened on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, November 24th, when a couple sought to crash a state party at the White House. Perhaps you've heard that story. I find it remarkable, the moxie of that couple. You know the story, I think, or some details of it. President Obama was hosting his first state dinner at the White House for the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and his wife. Three hundred high-ranking state officials and dignitaries were invited to that event, but this one couple was not invited. But yet they came anyway.
A strikingly attired couple. She was wearing a red and gold sari, appropriate attire for the occasion. And he was wearing a black tux. And they just swept confidently past the photographers and other people that were there at the red carpet watching the dignitaries who were coming in. They just walked right by, by the Secret Service. We'll get to that in a moment, but right on by everybody and into the event. And I think, undoubtedly, it was the clothing that they wore, and the confidence that they had, that enabled them to get through. If they'd been dressed like tourists, saying, “Is this where we should…” You know. They would have been dealt with very, very quickly. “No, time for tours is over. Tomorrow resume.” But they went right in with the proper clothing, and with that confidence.
And they had the, just, the gall to stand and get their photos taken with various folks and then post them later on the web. And so I think there's going to be some trouble for them. I haven't followed the story recently, but I heard that perhaps there were gonna be some charges pressed against them. I don't know what it would be, but I'm sure there's something. And the Secret Service is asking a simple question, “How in the world did it happen?” And I don't relish those who, probably heads are gonna roll or maybe already have, for something like that. They said procedures weren't followed. They were not invited, but they were still attending.
Now, there are a lot of similarities to the message that I'm gonna preach in the parable, but there's some significant differences too. In the parable of the wedding banquet, the one there was invited, but he wasn't chosen. And he didn't have the proper attire, he didn't have the proper clothing. And he wasn't just facing criminal charges, he was sent to hell. And so, as we come to, for the second week, the parable of the wedding banquet. Last week we looked at some details and just the big picture of the parable. We looked at what it taught us about God and man and various things, but there were some weighty doctrinal issues that come from this parable that we reserved for this week and I wanna look at them with you, together.
I wanna talk about the imputation or the crediting or the giving of Christ's righteousness, I believe, represented by the wedding clothes. I wanna talk about the joys of heaven, the horrors of hell, and the sovereignty of God and salvation. These are the weighty doctrines that await us this morning.
Review of the Parable
The Parable Recounted and Described
Let's just go over the parable again. You already heard it read this morning, but just look at it again. Christ spoke to them again in parables. He was teaching them in parables. “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. And he sent some servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner. My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off - one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot and throw him outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Lesson #1: The Gift of Christ’s Righteousness is Essential to Heaven
That's the parable. Let's look at the first lesson, and that is the gift of Christ's righteousness is essential to heaven. We must receive the gift of Christ's righteousness or we will not be permitted to enter Heaven. Look again at verses 11 through 13. The king comes in, he sees the guests, he noticed a man there who's not wearing the wedding clothes. “How did you get in here without wedding clothes?” The man's speechless, there's nothing he can say. And then the king throws him outside.
What Are the “Wedding Clothes”? Why Such a Harsh Response?
Now, what are these wedding clothes? And why such a shocking, really, a harsh response? Well, William Hendriksen, commenting on this passage, said this, “There can be only one explanation. It is by the command of the king and from his bountiful supplies, at the very entrance of the wedding hall a wedding robe had been offered to each guest. All except this person had accepted that free robe. This one man however, had looked at his own robe, perhaps slightly brushed it off with his hand, and then had told the attendants, ‘My own robe is good enough. I don't need the one you're offering me.’ Then, in an attitude of self-satisfaction and defiance, he had marched on into the wedding hall.”
Well, I think obviously that goes beyond, I think it uses some imagination, but I think it's probably true within the context of the parable. Seems like everybody else was properly attired, but this man was not. John McArthur said this, “The proper wedding garment of a true believer is God imputed righteousness, without which no one can enter or live in that kingdom.”
Now we're going to talk about that word, imputed. It wouldn't surprise me if many of you don't know what it means. I hope that by the time we get done, you do know what it means. Even if you don't know the word, you need to know the concept. The imputed righteousness of Christ is essential to heaven.
Positive Righteousness Required for Heaven
Now, the foundation of this whole point is that a positive righteousness is required for heaven. You must be righteous in order to go to heaven. And so it says in Matthew 5:20. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said this, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” So there is a level of righteousness you must have to go to heaven, to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus actually intensifies it later in that same chapter, at the end of the very same chapter. Matthew 5:48, he says, “You must be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” You must have a perfect righteousness, like unto that of God himself, to go to heaven.
So to whom, then, will God open the gates of the New Jerusalem? What nation will enter in and stream into those gates? Isaiah 26:2 says, “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, The nation that keeps faith.” It has to be a righteous nation that enters the gates of the New Jerusalem. In 2 Peter 3:13, the Apostle Peter calls the new heaven and the new earth “the home of righteousness.” You must be righteous to live there. There is no unrighteousness in that place.
Problem: No One is Righteous
Well, of course, we all have a problem, don't we? Significant problem. No one of us is righteous. Romans 3:10 teaches that very plainly. “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Note that in the parable the man is speechless. There is nothing he can say. And so it will be, dear friends, on Judgment Day, when the unrighteous are confronted with the perfect righteousness necessary for Heaven. There will be nothing they can say. There will not be one answer possible in a thousand accusations, not one. We will be speechless. If we don't have a gift of righteousness we will be lost.
The Answer of the Gospel: Imputed Righteousness
But praise be to God. Praise be to God. We celebrate this time of year, and every time of year, a gospel that solves our problem. Isn't that marvelous? Oh, how sweet is the gospel of the gift of righteousness that comes in Jesus Christ.
And the glowing center of that, declared very plainly in Romans 3:21-24, “But now, a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” That is talking of the gift of a righteousness from God, simply by faith. Not by works, of the law, not by our good works, but just simply as a gift, a gift of Christ's righteousness.
The Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness
This is where we get to this doctrine of the imputation or the crediting or the reckoning of Christ's righteousness to our account. Now, what do we mean by imputation? What are we talking about there? I guess the image I always get is of a numbered Swiss bank account. Like you have in those spy movies, you know. And there's this numbered account, and it's your account and suddenly there's a billion dollars in your account. Where did it come from? You probably wouldn't care, just as long as it's there, right? But there it is, suddenly a billion dollars credited to your account. And so it is with the righteousness of Christ, it's just credited to you as though it's yours. The imputation or the thinking or the reckoning. God thinks of you as righteous in Jesus.
That's how it works, a reckoning. There are actually two aspects of this imputation. Positively, Christ's righteousness is credited to us as though it were our own. God just sees us as righteous as Jesus. I mean, it's incredible when you think about it, he sees us as obedient as Jesus. He sees us as having kept just as many of the laws of Moses as Jesus did, as having spoken nothing but perfect words, as Jesus did. Incredible. I mean, you just keep unfolding and it's just, it boggles the mind, but God just credits Jesus's obedience, his righteousness, to you as though it was yours.
And negatively, our sins are credited to Jesus and not to us. So God does not reckon or consider our sins ours anymore. He considers them as having transferred over to Jesus. Whereupon he struck Jesus with the wrath of God in our place. Jesus drank hell for us on the cross, because he was bearing our sins. So, there's a double imputation or crediting. Christ's righteousness to us and our sins to Jesus.
Now, let's talk about this positive imputation or crediting of Christ's righteousness. Christ lived a perfect life, a sinless life. You could have thought, “Why didn't Jesus just be born or just made a man 33 years old, and just die that day. Blood shed on the cross, done, right? Why not? Could God do that?” Of course he could do it. Would it be Christ's blood shed on the cross? Yes. Could it have saved us? Debatable. I don't know if I wanna get into that. I just, God chose not to do that.
Instead, what God wanted was a life lived. In many respects a normal life lived, a human life lived. Walking on the dusty roads, eating food, drinking liquids, resting, getting fatigued, all of that stuff, a normal physical life, yet without sin. And so Jesus lived his whole life under the law of Moses. He was obedient to his parents at age 12. He was born under the law, he lived under the law. Obeyed the law, fulfilled it perfectly. Active righteousness of Jesus just obeying everything God commanded Him to do. Perfect righteousness of Jesus. And that active righteousness has been credited to you by faith if you're a Christian today. Isn't that incredible? God just sees you as though you are as obedient as Jesus. Because of your union with Jesus through faith, that's how He sees you. How remarkable is that? How much should you praise God for that?
- Gresham Machen who was a Presbyterian hero of the faith. In the early 20th century he fought the battle with liberalism in his denomination. And just as he was dying, just before he died, he sent a message to his friend and his theological co-worker, John Murray, and he said this, “I am thankful for the active obedience of Christ; no hope without it.” So Machen believed that Christ's obedience to the law is essential to our salvation. And I think it is. Christ's active obedience is essential to my salvation because that's the robe that Christ won for me and you. That's the act of righteousness. That's the wedding robe we have to wear on that Judgment Day.
Imputation Essential to Our Acceptance on Judgment Day
And that imputation of Christ's righteousness to us is essential to our acceptance on Judgment Day. Remember in the parable the man's thrown out, he's evicted because he doesn't have those wedding clothes. He's speechless, there's nothing he can say. And this is the reception that anyone will get who gets to Judgment Day trusting in their own righteousness. I stand here today as a messenger from God to tell you, you will go to hell if you do that. You will be cast out eternally if you stand and trust in your own righteousness and do not receive the gift of Christ's righteousness by faith. You are not good enough. Your righteousness isn't sufficient. I am not singling you out, I'm not either. There's no one righteous enough.
How to be as Righteous as Jesus
So how can we be as righteous as Jesus? Well, I've already told you, but I'll say it again: Simply by faith. By trusting in Christ. By simple faith. Not by any movement of the muscles, not by any deeds or actions or activities. You can do it while sitting and listening, just as you sit and listen you can just hear and believe.
It says in Romans 4:3, “What does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” That's it, just credited to him. Perfect righteousness credited to Abraham's account simply by faith. I Corinthians 1:30, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
And again, Philippians 3:8-9, Paul says, “that I may gain Christ,” that's what he's yearning for, “that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” And again, probably most famously, especially on the double imputation I was mentioning, 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” There's your double imputation.
Now, John Bunyan who wrote the classic Pilgrim's Progress in the late 17th century. He was converted remarkably and told his conversion story in his testimonial book, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. And as he was struggling with the gospel and with his own wickedness and his own efforts at saving himself and all that, wrestling with it, trying to come to some kind of assurance that he would, when he died, that he would go to heaven and not hell. Very concerned about his soul. This is what he wrote:
“One day as I was passing into the field and that too, with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right with my soul, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And I thought I saw with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness;” right there, “so that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, ‘He lacks my righteousness’, for that was just before him. I saw moreover that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor was it my bad frame of heart that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ, himself, the same yesterday, and today and forever. Thy righteousness is in heaven.”
Now, later it troubled Bunyan as he searched in the Bible, that he couldn't find the phrase anywhere, “Thy righteousness is in heaven.” It bothered him. And it actually isn't found anywhere. But, the doctrine certainly is, and he lighted on the passage I just read to you, 1 Corinthians 1:30. “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us righteousness.” It's the same thing. Christ is in fact our righteousness.
And so he wrote about this in Pilgrim's Progress and as Christian, the pilgrim who's leaving the City of Destruction and going to heaven, the Celestial City, trying to find some way to get out from under his guilt, he's got this heavy burden on his back. He comes at last to the cross, and when he looks at the cross, his burden is loosed from his back, and rolls down into the empty tomb, and there he saw it no more. And then he is given some gifts and one of the gifts that's given is this robe, this new set of clothing that covers him.
Just a short time later in the story, as he's traveling along, the journey isn't done yet, at that point. We have a long way to go in our pilgrimage to heaven. And so, he's traveling along, but he's in this beautiful robe. He notices two men tumbling in over the wall to get into the way to the Celestial City, Formalist and Hypocrisy are their names. And they're coming in and they notice, and they start to have a discussion. He's like, “The thief comes in this way. You ought to come in by the narrow gate, like I did.” And they're saying, “Well I don't see any difference between... We don't see any difference between us and you except that clothing you're wearing, which some friend probably gave you to cover your nakedness.”
And this is what Christian says, “As for the coat that's on my back, it was in fact given me by the Lord of the place whither I go, and as you say, it is to cover my nakedness with. And I take it as a token of his kindness to me for I had nothing but rags before. And besides this, I comfort myself as I go: surely, I think, when I come to the gate of the city, the Lord thereof, will know me for good since I have his coat on my back. A coat he gave me freely in the day that he stripped me of my rags.” Friends, go that way for Judgment Day. Clothed in the righteousness of Jesus.
Charles Wesley put it this way in the hymn, “And Can It Be”: “No condemnation now I dread. Jesus and all in him is mine. Alive in him, my living head and clothed in righteousness divine. Bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown through Christ my own.” So lesson number one, the gift or the imputation of Christ's righteousness is essential to your going to heaven.
Lesson #2: Heaven is a Joyful Place
Lesson number two: Heaven is a joyful place. I don't need to say much about this because I covered it a lot last week. But I don't think you'll mind if I talk more about the joys of heaven. Would you? Spend another week? Have you been constantly basking in heavenly joy, this week? Has it been a heavenly joy week for you? Well, it hasn't been for me, I mean it's been a week. It's been a busy week, some moments in and out, but I need a strong hope. I need to renew my faith today. And so I want a sense of just what it's gonna be like to sit at table at the wedding banquet with God and enjoy that.
The Joys of Heaven are Hinted at Here
And so, “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his Son”. That's what it's gonna be like, a wedding banquet. We're gonna sit at table with God, and we're gonna drink from the fountain of joy and we're gonna be happy forever. Forever and ever, and there'll be nothing in that place to take away our joy. The thief that came to steal and kill and destroy, he'll be screaming in agony in hell, he'll be away from us forever. Nothing will steal that joy from us, it'll be ours, forever and ever.
And foundational to that joy of heaven, as I mentioned last week, is relationship. It's all about love. That's what's gonna be the foundation of our joy. God loves me. But before we even get there, you have to start foundationally. God loves his Son, he loves Jesus. “This is my Son, my only Son, whom I love.” And we are seen to be in him so he loves us like he loves Jesus. And how sweet is that relationship?
And so it's all about love. As I mentioned last week, the love of the Father for the Son, he wants to put on this wedding banquet for his Son. Sparing no expense, what would God the Father spare in expense for his Son? Nothing. But so also secondarily a story of a love relationship between God the Son, and his bride, the church. We are his bride. We are part of that bride of Christ that's gonna be coming down from heaven, the New Jerusalem prepared for the husband.
And we are going to be in some mysterious way, married to Christ. Every earthly marriage is a picture of this. You've been to lots of weddings. They're happy times, at least they should be. I've been to some interesting weddings, ask me about those, some other time. You've probably seen some on YouTube that didn't end so happily, alright, those things happen. But this one is gonna be happy, it's gonna be perfectly happy, it's gonna be joyful, a celebration. And every earthly marriage, it just pictures in some mysterious way. Ephesians 5-31-32, the union of Christ and the church, that will be consummated, mysteriously consummated, there at the wedding banquet.
And so it's all about love, it's all about joy. We're gonna be sitting at table eating, drinking, feasting in some mysterious way. I keep using that word mysterious. I don't know what eating is like in heaven in the resurrection body. I know that Jesus ate broiled fish in a resurrection body. So, I'm hoping for better, hoping for something else, but who knows, maybe I'll be healed from my dislike of fish of any sort at that point. But the Lord knows what to do and it's going to be a happy, joyful, celebration time. And you'll have people at your right and at your left and you're gonna talk to them and you're gonna be totally satisfied with your position there at the table. And you're going to enjoy yourself, forever.
Yearn for this Joy
And there is no joy on earth that compares with it. The only thing that comes close is the deposit given us by the Holy Spirit, those little foretastes that we get. Like maybe you're having one right now like I am, and you're just yearning for it and longing for it. That's the closest it comes. No earthly gift can ever come close.
So, I would urge that you actually stoke up the fires of that desire in your heart. Make yourself yearn for it more than you ever did before. Feed your heart with things above and things to come, and what it's gonna be like, Feed your heart and your mind so that you can yearn for it more than ever before. And oh, how I wish I didn't have to turn from such a delightful and happy topic to one, so dreadful and horrible as this.
Lesson #3: Hell is a Terrifying Place
Hell Described Briefly Here
The horrors of hell, depicted very plainly in Verse 13. And Jesus warned us, more in detail and more specifically about hell than any other biblical figure. And you know I wonder sometimes about that. Not just that we needed the warning, but because he was going to experience hell himself on the cross, and he was gonna drink that cup from his Father and so hell was very personal for him and that he would absorb it in our place.
But look at it. Look at Verse 13, “Then the king told the attendants, tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there'll be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Further Descriptions of Hell Elsewhere
There are many descriptions of hell in other places. Revelation 14 speaks of those who receive the mark of the beast and “if anyone receives the mark of the beast, he too,” it says, “will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. And He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night.” It says.
And the sheep and the goats, the story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” Five verses later in verse 46, it says, “Then they will go away into eternal punishment.” Mark 9:48 says, “Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Revelation 20:14-15, it says, “The lake of fire is the second death, and if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Tie Hand and Foot, and Throw Him
So those are just different verses. But I want to zero in just on verse 13, and pick it apart a bit. First, it says “Tie him hand and foot.” The king commands the man who's not wearing wedding clothes to be tied up, hand and foot. The image is one of forceful restriction, the man cannot get away. Hell is the place of ultimate restriction. From hell there can be no escape.
Now, every prison on earth harbors within it some prisoners who harbor hope of escape. Even Alcatraz, that rock in the middle of the San Francisco Bay that was thought to be escape proof. There is a story in June of 1962, of three men that escaped. Now the FBI tells us they didn't make it. They may not have. No bodies were ever found, but they were able to get out and they made a rudimentary raft, and they got away.
But Dante, in writing Inferno, there was a sign over the gate, entering into the infernal region. It said, “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.” There's no escape. And why no escape, because God knows how to keep his prisoners. You have the omnipotence and the omniscience and the omnipresence of God working together to be certain you don't escape from hell.
Omniscience, speaking of earthly judgments, in Jeremiah 23:24, “‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord.” And then omnipresence, “‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”
Amos 9:1-3, “Not one will get away, none will escape. Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves on the top of Mount Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the sea serpent to bite them.” Now that's just earthly. How much more impossible is it to escape from hell?
The prisoners escaping from Alcatraz were hidden from the guards. They made dummies with real human hair, so that as the guards walked by the guards were fooled, thinking that the prisoners were still in their beds during the bed checks, during the night. Can't do that to God. God's omniscience, God's omnipotence, God's omnipresence ensures that no one will ever escape from hell. There's no getting out.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus, father Abraham says to the rich man, “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can any one cross over from there to us.” Jude 6 says that God held mighty angels in the pit before Judgment Day. It says, “The angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home - these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great day.” There can be no escape.
And notice also that they are thrown outside. “Tie him hand and foot and throw him outside.” It says. Some make foolish statements and it's just amazing the things you hear as people are trying, foolishly, to protect God's reputation as though hell is the dirty little secret of the future life. No, no, no, hell is God's righteous punishment on sin. God knows all about hell, and we don't need to protect God's reputation. But they seek to do this and you know what they say? They say, “God doesn't send anyone to hell. People send themselves there by their choices.”
Can I say to you quite plainly on Judgment Day, no one will choose to send themselves to hell. No one will say, “You know, I really don't wanna be with you, I don't wanna be with God. I'm going to walk and jump into the lake of fire over there.” No one will wanna go there. You won't need any faith to see it like you need faith now, to believe what I'm saying is true, it will be right there. And maybe some others have already been cast in there by the angels. They will have to be thrown outside. Thrown there. Against their will.
And note the word outside. What does the word outside mean? Well, outside of that wonderful place I just was talking about. The New Jerusalem, the place of feasting, the place of happiness, the place of bounty and celebration and joy. I said before, even if there were no hell, it would be hell to not be in heaven. But these folks are gonna be outside. Thrown outside. It says in the book of Revelation, “outside are the sinners,” there's this sense of outside and we're in here. Excluded, cast out, rejected, not permitted to enter and enjoy the presence of God.
It says, “Throw them outside into the darkness.” What is darkness? Well darkness is a place where there is nothing good. 1 John 1:5, it says, “This is the message we have heard from the beginning and declare to you: God is light; and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Well, hell is a place of perfect and complete darkness, it implies that there is no blessing from God there. God and his ability to bless is completely removed from hell. It's a place of darkness.
And don't let anyone tell you, “I wanna go to hell because all my friends will be there.” Sadly, it may be true. That all their friends will be there, but they will have no fellowship. Because it's a place of darkness, complete darkness, you'll see nothing, there'll be no light.
The New Jerusalem, the New Heaven and the New Earth will be illuminated with the glory of God and Christ will be the lamp and the righteous will shine with that light, the glory of God will radiate through that beautiful place. But it will not be there in hell because it's a darkness, a place of utter darkness.
It says, “Throw them outside in the darkness where there will be weeping.” Do you know what weeping signifies? It signifies psychological, mental, emotional trauma and pain.
It's a place of regret, a place of sadness, a place where you wish you had another chance, one more chance. A place where you remember the good things you had while you were alive and also that you never gave God thanks for them. And probably most acutely of all is there are some sighs and groans going up from hell. People will remember the chances that they had to hear the gospel which is the only power which would have gotten them out of there. And they will regret what they did at that time.
I actually prayed this morning that there would be some lost people here today. That you will fear regretting not having acted properly with this sermon. That you heard everything you needed. You've heard, you've heard the gospel this morning, you've heard the gospel of the gift of Christ's righteousness, of the shed blood of Jesus, of Christ drinking hell. You have all the ingredients, the power of God is here for you, you don't need to go to hell. Jesus drank hell for all that will repent and believe. So repent and believe.
You don't need to go there, Christ has already stood in your place to take it from you, he's here to warn you of it. But if you choose not to heed that warning you will regret this day, you'll look back on this day and you'll regret it, and say, “You know, you told me the truth, that day, and I didn't listen.” A place of psychological misery, of weeping and weeping and weeping, for eternity because you're not in heaven and you are in this dreadful place.
Gnashing of Teeth
Weeping and gnashing of teeth. I don't know what that is, other than I think of physical torment there. It's not just mental, emotional, psychological. I believe in the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. And I believe that the worm will not die and the fire will not be quenched. It's gonna be a place of active torment, under the wrath of God. People will gnaw their tongues in agony.
Summary: Please Flee the Wrath to Come
And so I beg you as though God himself were making his appeal I plead with you, flee the wrath to come. Because it's coming and just accept the gift of Christ's righteousness. Accept a place at the wedding banquet free of charge. Here's your place, sit down and eat forever, and enjoy forever, just accept it, receive it. There is no earthly situation, as horrible as hell. I don't use the word hell unless I'm speaking of it doctrinally, never. I don't say, “I felt like hell.” Or, “You look like hell.” I don't use the word because there's just nothing on earth that directly compares with it.
Can you imagine giving someone in hell a chance to be out of hell and in an AIDS clinic in Uganda, suffering from pneumonia, the final throes of AIDS, would they take it? I tell you, they would take it if only for 24 hours to get out of hell. They would go out of there and go to Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen or any one of a number of horrible places on earth rather than be in hell.
So, flee the wrath to come. It says in 2 Corinthian 6:2 “‘In the time of my favor, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you.’ I tell you now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.” Flee to Christ now. You don't need to go anywhere. You don't need to get up and come forward. You probably ought not to. You probably ought to just sit and believe and trust. And then after that, if it's a genuine faith, a whole lifetime of good works will come. Just believe and receive.
Lesson #4: God is Sovereign in Salvation
Lesson number four. God is sovereign in salvation. Now, there are two really shocking aspects of this parable. One is what happened to the man who wasn't wearing wedding clothes. Throw him outside in the darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Just went through that carefully. But verse 14 is pretty shocking too. It's like, “Where did that come from?” It's kind of like out of left field it seems. Well, nothing's out of left field from the mind of Christ. If it seems out of left field to you, you just don't understand the mind of Christ at that point, that's all.
Called by God
And so what does he mean when he says, “Many are invited, but few are chosen”? Most translations actually give us this, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Where did the issue of choosing even come in? Well, remember Jesus is telling this parable to the Jews who are rejecting it.
And in effect, like Paul in Romans 9-11, is answering the question of, “Why are the Jews rejecting?” It's so unbelievable that you would actually reject an invitation to a banquet with the king. Why are you doing it? And Jesus's answer is, there are lots of people invited, but only some, few, are chosen and the chosen ones will stay at the wedding banquet and if you're not chosen, you won't say at the wedding banquet. That's what Jesus is saying. It's the doctrine of election of choosing by God.
So we have to deal first with “many are called.” What do we mean by called or invited? Well, the invitation, the call comes from God. First of all, you can't go to the wedding banquet in and of yourself just like any more than we could have gone to that state dinner that that couple from Virginia, they tried, and I think it will probably never happen again, I'm thinking.
Alright, you can't just up and say, “I'm going to that state dinner.” You have to be invited. And if you're not invited, you can't go. And how much more then, heaven. But here's the beauty of it. God is inviting you. He's inviting you, it's an incredible thing. The initiative was on God's part, and he is opening it up. He's sending out messengers and the messengers are going, saying, “Come on everybody, come. Whosoever wills let him come.” That's what it's saying, God must call us.
Two Different Callings: General and Effectual
Now, I believe there are two different kinds of calling and they're related. There is an external call that you hear with your ears, you're hearing it right now. Causes your eardrums to vibrate. It may not cause your heart to move, but it does cause the eardrums to vibrate, causes the mind to think some certain thoughts.
The General Call of the Gospel: Evangelism
It's an external call. It's the words of the gospel which Paul says, “Is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” it's the gospel of Jesus Christ. The general call goes out, the external call you just hear it, you could read it, you could hear it on Trans World Radio, you could hear it on a DVD, you could see it on YouTube. There's lots of different ways to get that call, but it's external, and it's just an invitation from God to believe in Jesus. Messengers are sent out.
It's Lottie Moon time and so we say, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how then can they call on the one they've not believed? And how can they believe in the one of whom they've not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
So that's the external call. It's the call of the evangelist, of the missionary. So you go and visit a new neighbor. And you bring them one of those little white bags with the little gifts in there. Invite them to our concert. Alright. Bring a freshly baked little loaf of bread or something. It's Christmas time, it's time to be neighborly. You go out there and you invite them to church, that's not the call. But then you get in the conversation and as you go in, you start talking about Christ and him crucified, Jesus shed his blood if you repent and believe. Now that's the call. You're starting to get into gear explaining the gospel and they listen, you are giving the external call.
Or an urban evangelist sets up a tent. For seven straight days he's in some tough area of some city in the U.S., and they have a crusade, and they preach the gospel. They preach Christ and him crucified. Every day and every night. That's the call, the external call, the invitation.
A missionary in China conducts an English language class. And uses the Bible as a text. And there's a specific student who wants to know more, comes privately after hours. They have a conversation. The missionary shares the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. That is the external call. It's the message of the gospel.
A physician witnesses to a patient who has just received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, sitting there in the room, they're witnessing very plainly of repentance and faith in Christ. Dear friends, that's the external call.
Now as Christians, it is our job to do that. We are called on to spread that as widely as we can. We are called out to go into the hedge rows, and the street corners and place of employment and your neighbor and everywhere to the ends of the earth, missionaries like the Gillams and others going out to the ends of the earth with the external call, spreading the gospel.
So verse 10, “The servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Jesus himself did this, “On the last and greatest day of the feast he stood and called out in a loud voice. ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’” There's your external call.
The Effectual Call of the Gospel: Regeneration
But there is another call. And it works together with the external call and at the same time as the external call, there's the internal call of God. The internal call of Almighty God. It's an effective call, an effectual call. It creates what it calls. God says, “Let there be light,” and there's light. God creates and there is.
It says, in Romans 4:17, speaks of “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” So God calls to the heart, to the unregenerate heart, and the unregenerate heart, hearing the words, the external call of the Gospel, repents and believes. Why? Because God has worked it sovereignly in their heart.
So it says in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” So you've got that external general call and you've got the sovereign call of God in regeneration.
Not Everyone Gets Called by God
Now, not everyone gets these calls. First of all, it's “Many are called,” not “everyone is called.” So there are some people that live their whole lives and never hear about Jesus, they never get the invitation that way. If you asked me about that and the justice of it and all that, that's another sermon, already preached it, probably several times. Come and ask me, and we'll talk about it. But it does say, “Many are called.” So many many many people hear the external call of the gospel, many.
But only few are chosen to sit at the banquet with God, chosen by God for that purpose, this is God's sovereignty in salvation. Ephesians 1 says, “He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
God’s Sovereignty in Salvation
According to Jesus, then, God sovereignly chooses whom he will call with that internal call, who he will clothe with the righteousness of Christ, and whom he will seat at the banquet table with him. I don't know what other interpretation, you could give to Jesus' summation of this parable. “Many are called but few are chosen.” It's the chosen ones that get to sit at the table and aren't cast outside into the darkness.
Well, what application can we take from this? Well, I've already given you one, repent and come to Christ.
Secondly, be involved in the external call, be involved in the call of the mission. You have the chance to do that financially. Next week you're gonna hear a Lottie Moon speaker. Listen to that message, see how God may be calling you to be involved in missions. I believe that people like the Gillams and others, missionaries that are in our church, they are a stewardship from God to this local church. Let's cherish their call and let's do what we can to feed that call and encourage them. And as you spend more time, you may actually hear a call from God, to go on mission work yourself.
And then finally, if I could just urge you, feed your hearts with the joys of heaven and study the terrors of hell. I really believe that an hour in each place would do us good whether we were Christians or non-Christians. But you can get it through the Word of God. Feed on it. Close with me now if you would in prayer.