Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1992 -- Volume 5:1
A Call to the Wedding Celebration:
An Exposition of Matthew 22:1-14
Gregory P. Sapaugh*
This article is an exposition of Matt 22:1-14, commonly referred to as the parable of the wedding celebration.1 It is one of twelve parables in Matthew concerning "the kingdom of heaven" and one of three which speak of "the darkness outside." The prevailing interpretation of the passage is that it concerns the loss of eternal salvation. But a close analysis of the details of the parable yields some problems with this position.
The goal of the article is to give an exposition that fits the details and imagery of the parable, and which is in harmony with the context of Matthew and the teaching of the NT.
1. The Setting of Matt 22:1-14
The Context of the Parable
Matthew's parable occurs in the midst of great conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious authorities. The Lord has made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (21:1-11) and has vented His indignation on the moneychangers, buyers, and sellers in the temple (21:12-17). Following the incident of Jesus cursing the fig tree in 21:18-22, the chief priests and elders confront Jesus with a question concerning His authority (21:23). After confounding them with a question of His own (21:24-27), Jesus responds with three parables.
The first parable, in 21:28-32, condemns the leaders for not heeding the message of John the Baptist. In the second parable, 21:33-44, Jesus compares the authorities to some wicked vinedressers who kill the son of the owner of the vineyard. The final parable of this trilogy—our passage here—is the parable of the wedding celebration. What follows through 22:40 are the efforts of the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees to trap Jesus with difficult questions so as to find some charge against Him. Knowing their intentions, Jesus skillfully answers each one and then follows with a question of His own concerning the identity of the Son of David (22:41-45). According to Matt 22:46, no one was able to come up with an answer nor was anyone willing to question Jesus any more. Indeed, this is the last confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish authorities until His arrest in Gethsemane (Matt 26:47-56).
The Introduction of the Parable
The parable opens in a typical way: "And Jesus answered and spoke again to them by parables, saying" (22:1).2 Parables were the means by which Jesus often chose to teach people. A parable is simply a pictorial story drawn from everyday life that is designed to teach important spiritual truths. It can function like a metaphor or simile or just simply as an example.
The recipients of the parable are identified by the pronoun "them" (autois). This refers back to "the multitudes" of 21:46.3
According to Matt 21:46, the crowd considered Jesus to be a prophet. Previously, at the triumphal entry, the crowds called Jesus a prophet (Matt 21:1) and proclaimed Him as the Son of David (21:9). This directly ties back to the testimony in 20:30-31 of the two blind men on the road out of Jericho: "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David." This entire episode is full of messianic implications.4
Therefore it seems most reasonable to see the parable of the wedding celebration as being addressed, not to the religious authorities, but to a crowd of people, many of whom believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah. We would thus expect the lesson of the story to be primarily directed to those who believe in Christ.
2. The First Call of the King (22:2-3)
The Setting of the Story
The parable proper begins in v 2: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man, that is, a king, who gave a wedding celebration for his son." The setting of the parable is a royal wedding party and it is compared to "the kingdom of heaven."
The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God. "The kingdom of heaven" (hē basileia tōn ouranōn) occurs thirty-two times in Matthew and is unique to his Gospel. That the kingdom of heaven is equivalent to the kingdom of God5 is first of all borne out in parallel passages inthe other Synoptic Gospels where Mark and Luke use "the kingdom of God." An example of this is found in Matt 11:11 and Luke 7:28. In Matthew Jesus says, "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (NKJV). Luke reads, "For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he" (NKJV).6
Perhaps the most compelling evidence for equating the two terms is found in Matt 19:23-24: "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God'" (NKJV, emphasis supplied). From this passage, the two terms are clearly synonymous.
The meaning of the kingdom of God is approached differently by different commentators. All would agree that it involves the rule of God. Some stress the activity of the rule of God,7 some the sphere of His rule,8 and others a combination of the two.9 Some believe the present aspect of the kingdom predominates,10 while others think the primary emphasis is eschatological.11 As before, some expositors combine the two.12 To some extent the kingdom of God is all of the above. As will be shown, the reference to the kingdom in our parable is an eschatological one.
The predominant significance of a "wedding celebration" (gamos) in the NT is eschatological. The Jews generally associated the concept of the wedding feast with the future reign of the Messiah (see below). The kingdom of God is the future, eternal, and righteous reign of the triune God, manifested by the incarnate Son of God, over the creation and the earth.
The first characters of the parable are "the king" and "his son." The imagery of "the king" here refers to God the Father with Christ being "his son."13 That this is so can be shown from the identical terminology of Matt 18:23. This is the only other time the expression "a man, that is, a king" (anthrōpō basilei) is used in the NT and it is explicitly identified by Jesus as God the Father (18:35).
The term "wedding celebration" (gamos) occurs sixteen times in the NT14 with the unambiguous meaning of "wedding" or "wedding celebration." It occurs most often in an eschatological setting, the best example of this being the description of the marriage of the Lamb in Rev 19:7, 9. Here, the faithful saints are symbolically bound together in marriage to their Lord.
The wedding celebration had great eschatological symbolism for devout Jews.15 The marriage of God and Israel is illustrated in OT passages like Isa 62:4-5, Jer 2:2, 31:2, Ezek 16:32, and Hos 2:2. In Isa 25:6-9, 65:8-16, and Ps 22:26-29, the messianic reign is compared to a feast or banquet.
In addition to the OT, this eschatological banquet imagery appears in Near Eastern and rabbinic literature, Jewish Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and the Qumran literature.16
In Jewish eschatological expectation God is the One who renews the marriage bond with His people. In the NT Christ takes the place of God as the heavenly bridegroom.17
Thus, the introduction to the parable in the first two verses establishes the eschatological setting of the parable. This is due to the imagery associated with the wedding celebration. Whatever the parable is about, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to it.
The Invitation (22:3a)
The time had come for the wedding celebration to begin. Therefore, it is also time for the people who had been invited to come: "And he sent his servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding celebration" (22:3a).
In accordance with Jewish marriage customs of the day, the king sends "his servants" to contact those who had previously been invited and to advise them to come to the wedding celebration. Typically, at some time prior to the banquet, invitations were sent. Then, when the time for the celebration itself arrived, the servants were sent to advise that everything was ready and it was time to come.18
The previous unrecorded invitation represents the general call by God to the messianic banquet made through the OT prophets.19 The recorded invitation by the servants in v 3 is best interpreted as the invitation to the wedding banquet for Christ, in the coming kingdom, by John the Baptist, the twelve apostles, and other early pre-Pentecost witnesses.20
The Response (22:3b)
Those initially invited reject the offer: "they did not wish to come" (22:3b). They were expected to attend the royal function but refused to do so.21 To decline an invitation by a commoner without a legitimate excuse would be insulting. But to do this to a monarch would be even more so. This repudiation of the king sets the stage for the second call to the wedding celebration.
3. The Second Call of the King (22:4-6)
The Second Invitation (22:4)
The king now issues a second invitation (v 4): "Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Say to those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my noon meal,22 my oxen and fattened cattle are slaughtered, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding celebration."'"
The king sends more servants to the same group of people. The message is more specific than before, possibly to provide added incentive for them to come.23 The first part of the message concerns the nature of the wedding banquet. This meal is now ready and waiting. The king has already prepared everything in advance, anticipating the acceptance of his invitation to the banquet.
The menu of "oxen and fattened cattle" indicates a feast of great magnitude.24 Also, since the animals had already been slaughtered, they must be eaten without delay.25 There is, therefore, a sense of urgency in the message.
The message is summarized in the phrase, "all things are ready." The king has gone to great lengths to prepare the banquet for the people. On the basis of their expected acceptance of his invitation, he has made everything ready.
The invitation ends with a final plea: "Come to the wedding celebration." The king earnestly desires the presence of the people he had invited to the wedding celebration. He has expended much effort in preparing the feast and has overlooked their first rejection. The second group of servants represents the post-Pentecost missionaries for Christ.26 Through these, God continued to offer to Israel a place at the wedding celebration for His Son. The parable now turns to the second response of the invitees.
The Second Response (22:5-6)
Those invited a second time respond in two ways. Some are apathetic; some are openly antagonistic. The rejection of the first group of people is found in v 5: "But, paying no attention, they went away, the one to his own field, the other to his business." The attitude of these people is one of indifference. They leave the servants and return to their own affairs. The first rejection was very insulting to the king since the invitation to a royal function is both an honor and a command.27 To do this on the grounds of routine business commitments is even more insulting.28
A second group of invitees responds with open rebellion and violence: "But the others, after seizing his servants, mistreated and killed" them (22:6).
The word "mistreated" (hybrisan) denotes mistreatment which is of a violent nature and may involve both verbal and physical abuse.29 This abuse went one step further, because they also killed the servants.30 The violence of the people against the servants is representative of the persecution and martyrdom of the post-resurrection apostles and Christian witnesses by the Jews,31 most particularly by the religious authorities who are here "the others" (hoi loipoi, "the rest").32
The second refusal of the king's graciousness now sets the stage for his second response.
4. The First Judgment of the King (22:7)
The king, who had previously responded graciously, now responds in wrath: "And when the king heard (it), he became angry. And by sending his army,33 he destroyed those murderers and burned their city.34
First, those who killed the servants are destroyed. It seems as though the persons of v 5 who were merely apathetic are spared.
The second act of destruction is the burning of the city of the murderers.35 This verse seems to be a clear reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70.36 The repeated rejection by Israel of the invitation of God through His servants culminated in the sacking of that nation's capital.
The king has now issued two invitations to those he had invited to the wedding celebration for his son and has twice been refused. The second refusal brought some a deservedly harsh judgment by the king. The verses as a whole concisely depict the sad history of the nation of Israel. God, through His servants, repeatedly offered the people an invitation to attend the wedding celebration for His Son, the Messiah. Their persistent refusal culminated in the Romans destroying Jerusalem.
5. The Third Call of the King (22:8-10)
The New Invitation (22:8-9)
Now the king renews his efforts to reward a select group of people with the honor of attending the wedding celebration of his son. He sends out his servants with new instructions. But first, an explanation is in order: "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding celebration is ready, but those who had been invited were not worthy'" (22:8). The king did not deem the ones he had originally invited as deserving of a place at the banquet.
The new orders for the servants involve an expansion of the invitation. Verse 9 says, "Go, therefore, to the streets,37 and whoever you should find, invite to the wedding celebration." The imagery depicts the extension of the invitation to the banquet to all people, including the Gentiles.38 This echoes what Jesus had just told the authorities in 21:43: "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it" (NKJV).
The Response (22:10)
The obedience and success of the servants is reflected in v 10a: "And when those servants went out to the streets, they gathered all whom they found, bad and good." The servants obeyed their king and went out and amassed a new collection of people to attend the banquet. Although the text does not explicitly state that an invitation was issued, it must be inferred that one was given and that these people responded affirmatively.
The people are described as "bad and good." This signifies the varying moral states of those who accepted the invitation to the banquet. The servants did not discriminate as to whom they invited.39 All who were willing to come were welcome. Hodges provides an example:
The two named converts of the Evangelist Philip—Simon Magus and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:9-40)—were opposites of the kind suggested in this parable. One was steeped in sorcery, the other was steeped in Scripture. But both, on Scriptural testimony, became Christians (8:13, 38). The "bad" and the "good" were gathered in.40
The results of the expanded offer are expressed in v lob: "And the wedding celebration was filled with guests."41 The desire of the king to have many people in attendance at the wedding celebration for his son is finally realized.
6. The Second Judgment of the King (22:11-14)
The Evaluation of the Guests (22:11-12)
The scene now shifts to the banquet itself (v 11): "But when the king went in to see the guests, he saw a man there who was not clothed in a wedding garment.42 The wedding party is now in progress and the king enters the palace to observe the guests.43 He immediately notices a man dressed unsuitably for a wedding. It was customary for each person who would attend such an affair to clothe himself appropriately before going. The man obviously did not prepare himself in a fitting way for a royal banquet.44
The "wedding garment" is best interpreted as being a picture of good works. This is most clearly seen in the description of the marriage of the Lamb in Rev 19:7-9. As noted earlier, the setting for both Rev 19:7-9 and Matt 22:1-14 is an eschatological banquet (gamos, cf. Matt 22:2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; Rev 19:7, 9). The banquet of Rev 19:7-9 is also the only other eschatological wedding celebration in the NT where the clothing worn by the participants is mentioned. The wedding clothes of Matt 22:11 correspond to the clothes worn by the bride at the wedding of the Lamb in Rev 19:8. She is said to be clothed in "fine linen, clean and bright" (NKJV). Further, this fine linen is described as "the righteous acts of the saints" (NKJV). And in the previous verse, it states that she "has made herself ready" (NKJV). This is in definite contrast to the man without the garment in Matt 22:13, who did not make himself ready.
There are two main views found in the commentaries concerning the identity and meaning of the wedding garment. First, the wedding garment could be symbolic of the positional righteousness imputed by Christ when a person believes.45 The guest without the wedding garment, therefore, would be an unbeliever. This is thought to be demonstrated by a Jewish custom in which the host provided his guests with the proper attire.46 But the evidence for this view is inadequate and, as most of the commentators would agree, irrelevant to the story.47 If the man in question were an unbeliever then it seems that he would not be present at the banquet in the first place.
The second position relates the wedding garment to the righteous lifestyle which can be expected of true believers.48 The improperly clothed man is therefore either an unbeliever or a believer who has lost his salvation. The latter of these two options must be rejected outright. The former is problematic because, as before, the man is already present at the banquet. If he is, in reality, an unbeliever, how was he able to enter the banquet to begin with?49
The most reasonable conclusion is that the wedding garment is a figure for righteous living.50 Therefore, this man did not faithfully perform the good works that are necessary to be present at the wedding banquet. This also leads to the conclusion that eternal salvation is not an issue in this passage. This is because of the clear testimony of the NT that salvation in the eternal sense is by faith alone. Good works have absolutely nothing to do with securing eternal life. But according to this parable, they have much to do with presence at the wedding celebration.51 Hodges concludes:
But it is to the wedding itself, and not merely to the Kingdom as such, that the call is extended. That certainly implies a saving belief in the message about the King's Son. But it involves more than that. It involves also a willingness to be His disciple, to love righteousness and hate wickedness as He did, to take up our own cross as He took up His.
In short, it involves a willingness to enter the Kingdom prepared for its special privileges. It means coming to the wedding properly dressed!52
The king goes on to question the man: "Friend, how have you entered here not having a wedding garment?" (v 12a). The king has recognized that the man has not adequately prepared himself to come to the royal affair, and so questions him as to why not. But the offender offered no reply (v 12b): "But he was silent." The man had no defense for his negligence.
To summarize, the imagery of this section represents a scene of judgment by God. For many expositors, this is a "final judgment" where the righteous redeemed are separated from the unrighteous lost.53 But as has been demonstrated, it is a viable, and I believe a better, interpretive option to view the people at the banquet, including the inappropriately clothed man, as believers.54 Therefore, it is perhaps more natural to see this occasion as depicting the Judgment Seat of Christ where God observes and evaluates the life and works, both good and bad, of believers in order either to recompense or to deny them reward.55 Participation in the wedding celebration, then, can reasonably be viewed as a reward for good works done in a believer's life.
More specifically, the wedding supper can be construed to relate to a faithful believer's co-reigning with Christ. According to Heb 12:2, "Jesus [is] the author and finisher of our faith who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (NKJV). The reference to "joy" here is most likely a reference to Christ's future joy as King (see Heb 1:8-9), for which He "endured." And Jesus will be pleased to give the joyful privilege of reigning with Him to believers who likewise endure: "To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Rev 3:21 NKJV). Further, the idea of reigning with Christ seems to be related to dining with Him. In Luke 22:28-30, Jesus spoke to His disciples and said: "But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (NKJV). Therefore, to be at the wedding banquet, to eat and drink at His table, is to reign with Christ. Lang concludes: "Thus authority in the kingdom, and the honour of sitting at His own, the chief, table in the day of His royal feasting, are plainly promised as superior rewards for superior devotion."56
The Consequence of the Evaluation (22:13)
The man is cast into the darkness outside. The king responds to the impropriety of the man in v 13a: "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him foot and hand, take (him) away, and cast (him) out into the darkness outside."
The man is tossed out of the wedding celebration into "the darkness outside" (to skotos to exoteron). Wedding celebrations typically lasted long into the night and so, in the imagery of the story, the man is cast into the darkness of night outside the well-lighted banquet hall. It is best to understand "the darkness outside"57 as a figure for exclusion from the joy of co-reigning with Christ, an exclusion which will produce tears and regret. Since his feet and hands are bound, he is unable to serve in the Lord's government,58 and so misses out on the joy of the wedding celebration. This is the most fair interpretation for four reasons:
First, there is nothing inherent in the phrase that would automatically make it refer to hell.59 It is true that the imagery associated with darkness is often that of a place of sorrow reserved for the unrighteous.60 But there is nothing in the text of Matt 22:13 that indicates that "the darkness outside" is to be associated with the sort of punishment described in 2 Thess 1:8-9. There, "flaming fire," "vengeance," and "punishment with everlasting destruction" are the prescribed consequences for the unbeliever. But there is no punishment like this mentioned in Matt 22:13 and to believe it is inherent in the concept of darkness is to import an idea into the text that is not required.61
Second, the wedding celebration is not the kingdom of God; it is in the kingdom of God. Many consider the banquet to be representative of the kingdom, so that when the man is cast out of the banquet, he is cast out of the kingdom.62 This is problematic because there is nothing in the parable itself that indicates this. In fact, it is more natural from the text to see the banquet hall as being in the kingdom, but not the kingdom itself. There is every indication that the king is a great king. He had many servants, had the resources to put on a great wedding celebration, and commanded an army. The people he invited lived in a city. It is only reasonable, therefore, to assume that his kingdom must extend beyond the confines of the palace. This man is most assuredly put out of the palace itself. But it is more natural by far to view him as still being in the kingdom.63
Third, this position is supported by the other two occurrences of "the darkness outside" in the NT (Matt 8:12; 25:30). In Matthew 8, Jesus encounters the centurion whose servant was sick. After commending the faith of the man in v 10, Jesus says, "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down64 with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 8:11-12, NKJV). The expression "sons of the kingdom" means those who are natural and rightful heirs of the kingdom.65 The only other time "sons of the kingdom" occurs is in Matt 13:38. There, when explaining the meaning of the parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus identifies the good seed as the "sons of the kingdom." Therefore, the sons of the kingdom belong in the kingdom. And yet, because they were not worthy of reclining at the same table as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they were cast into "the darkness outside." From this, it seems reasonable that, from the perspective of Matthew, "the darkness outside" is within the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 25:14-30 records the parable of the talents. The servant who did nothing with what his master gave him has his talent taken away (v 28) and is cast into "the darkness outside" where "there is weeping and gnashing of teeth" (v 30). Although some consider this third unprofitable servant to be an unbeliever, it is probably better to regard him as an unrewarded believer. Again, it seems as though "the darkness outside" is associated with one who is in the kingdom. Huber supports this position:
The details of the contexts of both 8:12 and 22:13 set the figure of the wedding feast in the millennium. The context and details of 25:30 argue for all the servants of the parable to represent regenerated men. Thus in all three passages the "outer darkness" may not refer to eternal punishment in hell. A probable alternative is that it refers to the loss of a specific reward in the millennial kingdom. The common denominator in all three passages is that special joy to be inherited by the faithful believer, implied by the wedding feast in 8:12 and 22:13 and specifically mentioned in 25:30. The "outer darkness," then may very likely refer to the loss of this special joy in the millennial kingdom.66
Finally, the term translated "outside" (exoteros) appears nowhere else in the NT outside of the three verses mentioned. However, it occurs 23 times in the LXX and always in relation to the tabernacle or temple of God, or the palace of a king.67 Most significantly, the term is used fifteen times in Ezekiel to describe the outer court of the temple (Ezek 10:5; 40:19,20; 41:15, 17; 42:1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14; 44:19; 46:20, 21). Once, it describes the outer gate of the temple (Ezek 44:1). It may be noteworthy, considering the eschatological imagery of the subject parable, that the dominant use of the term is in relation to the millennial temple in Ezekiel 40-48. In light of this, it seems reasonable to conclude that the improperly clothed man of Matthew 22 is thrown into the outer court of the palace. But it does not necessarily follow that he is cast out of the kingdom.
To summarize, "the darkness outside" depicts the experience within the kingdom of God of the unfaithful believer. Stanley likewise concludes: "To be in the 'outer darkness' is to be in the kingdom of God but outside the circle of men and women whose faithfulness on this earth earned them a special rank or position of authority" (italics in original).68
The darkness outside is characterized by weeping and gnashing of teeth. The experience of the man cast out of the banquet is further described as an experience of sorrow (v 13b): "There will be there weeping and gnashing of teeth." This expression (ho klauthmos kai ho brygmos tōn odontōn) occurs six other times in the NT (Matt 8:12; 13:42, 50; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). Like "the darkness outside," the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is unique to the NT.69
The occurrence of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" with "the darkness outside" in Matt 8:12 and 25:30 has already been discussed. In Matt 13:42, 50, it is associated with "the furnace of fire." In this context, we clearly have the end of the unbeliever. In 24:51, it occurs where the "hypocrites" are and where the wicked servant of 24:48-50 will be when the Son of Man returns. In Luke 13:27-28, the "workers of iniquity" are not in the kingdom of God. When they see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets in the kingdom of God, "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (13:28, NKJV).
From this, it can be concluded that the significance of the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" with regard to eternal judgment depends on the context in which it occurs. There is nothing inherent in the expression itself that automatically associates it with the eternal judgment of the unbeliever.70 It is clearly related to remorse and sorrow.71 As with "the darkness outside," nothing in the text of Matt 22:13 indicates that physical punishment is the cause of the weeping and gnashing of teeth. For example, Jesus wept (edakrysen, "shed tears") over Lazarus (John 11:35). In Acts 7:54, the accusers of Stephen "gnashed at Him with their teeth" because of his words of condemnation toward them.72 In neither case is physical punishment being inflicted; likewise, it is not necessary to see punishment in Matt 22:13. Hodges comments:
We do not need to embellish the parable with the lurid colors of eternal damnation. There is no fire and brimstone on the king's handsome estate, no worms of corruption creeping out from under the boulders of his well-kept grounds. This is what has been read into the story. But it isn't there. A parable, after all, has its natural limits and these we must be careful not to breach.73
In conclusion, it is viable and consistent to interpret the imagery of 22:13 as relating to a denial of the joy of being at Christ's wedding banquet—that is, of co-reigning with Him. This will be the consequence for the believer who has lived an unfaithful and unproductive life. Stanley paints the imagery thus:
Now, imagine standing before God and seeing all you have lived for reduced to ashes. How do you think you would feel? How do you think you would respond? Picture yourself watching saint after saint rewarded for faithfulness and service to the King—and all the time knowing that you had just as many opportunities but did nothing about them.
We cannot conceive of the agony and frustration we would feel if we were to undergo such an ordeal; the realization that our unfaithfulness had cost us eternally would be devastating. And so it will be for many believers.
Just as those who are found faithful will rejoice, so those who suffer loss will weep. As some are celebrated for their faithfulness, others will gnash their teeth in frustration over their own shortsightedness and greed.74
The Explanation of the Result (22:14)
Jesus concludes His parable with these words: "For many are called, but few (are) chosen" (v 14). This sentence occurs only here in the critical text, but also in Matt 20:16, according to the Majority text.75 It functions as the explanation by the king for his actions.76
The conclusion begins with the plain statement that "many are called." This summarizes the fact that the king invited many people to the wedding celebration for his son.77 Invitations were extended in vv 3-4, and 9-10.
Despite this fact, only a "few are chosen." The idea here is simply that only those who are appropriately clothed in a wedding garment are chosen to partake of the wedding banquet. The traditional view holds that "chosen" (eklektoi) pertains to the doctrine of election.78 The chosen ones are true believers who accepted the call of God and demonstrated their faith and worthiness to take part in the banquet by the performance of good works. Thus the banquet is synonymous with the kingdom. The man without the garment is representative of either a "false believer" (= an unbeliever), since he did not manifest his salvation in works of righteousness,79 or a believer who loses his salvation because of disobedience.80 Either way, he is not chosen and is cast into hell.
But it is not necessary to see eklektos as having soteriological significance here. It is more suitable to the immediate context to see that it simply means that the ones properly clothed are chosen to be at the banquet. As has been demonstrated, the wedding garment is representative of the good works done by the believer. Since faith, not works, is the only requirement for eternal life in the kingdom, entrance and life in the kingdom are not the issues here. It has also been shown that the wedding banquet is not representative of the kingdom, but rather is an occurrence within the kingdom. The experience symbolized by the wedding celebration is reserved for the obedient believer.
The parable of Matt 22:1-14 concludes in vv 8-14 with an extension of the offer of a place at the wedding celebration of Christ to all people, including the Gentiles. Many accepted the invitation and prepared themselves with faithful Christian living which is required for presence at the banquet. The unfaithful and disobedient believer who did not prepare himself for the banquet found himself excluded from the joy of co-reigning with Christ at the banquet.
Our Lord's parable of the wedding celebration provides insight into the enhanced position of relationship and authority to and with Him which will be enjoyed by faithful and obedient believers in the millennial kingdom and possibly on into the eternal state. This is portrayed in the parable as a glorious wedding banquet. Great joy and fellowship with Christ would naturally accompany such an occasion. At the same time, exclusion from such close fellowship would be a cause for sadness and remorse.
The parable also contributes to the understanding of the requirements necessary to participate in the "celebration." The basis for being present at the banquet is a wedding garment, which depicts the good works done by the believer. This corresponds with the NT picture of a life of consistent faithfulness and discipleship as being requisite for reigning with Christ, represented by attendance at His banquet.
The common view of the parable is that the wedding celebration depicts the kingdom of God and that the person who does not manifest the righteousness in his life to qualify for a position at the banquet is subsequently cast into hell. The person is either an unbeliever or a believer who loses his salvation. These positions are inadequate, both exegetically and theologically. The proposed interpretation of Matt 22:1-14 is offered as a viable exposition which deals with details of the parable and is harmonious with the teaching of the NT concerning soteriology and sanctification.
The parable of the wedding celebration is a message of the importance of righteous living by believers and the relation of that righteous living to the position of the individual in the future millennial kingdom.
One valid motivation for being faithful to Christ is the glorious prospect of receiving rewards and, as Matt 22:1-14 teaches, reigning and fellowshiping with our King in His kingdom. In the words of Paul and John, these kingdom privileges are reserved for those who "endure" (2 Tim 2:12) and "overcome" (Rev 3:21). In the words of Matthew, they are for the ones who are clothed in the "wedding garment" of good works. The one not so clothed will be consigned to "the darkness outside," which is figurative of an experience in the kingdom with serious restrictions. For the truth is, that while all believers are eternally redeemed, only faithful believers will eternally reign.
*Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Starkville, Mississippi
1This article is an abridged rewriting of the author's thesis, "An Interpretation of Matthew 22:1-14" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1991).
2Unless otherwise noted, the translations are those of the author.
3That a crowd was present in the temple is indicated in 21:26. The authorities feared their reaction if they said that John the Baptist was sent from men. There are three reasons why "them" refers to the multitudes: (1) The nearest grammatical antecedent to "them" in 22:1 is "the multitudes" of 2 1:46. Greek pronouns agree with their antecedents in gender and number. Autois is masculine and plural. The nearest masculine plural antecedent is "the multitudes" (tous ochlous) in 21:46. (2) Matt 21:45 specifically states that the chief priests and Pharisees heard the previous parables and knew that they were directed at them. It does not say that the following parable in 22:1-14 was directed to them as well. (3) According to the parallel account in Mark, the chief priests and Pharisees leave Jesus when He finishes the parable of the vineyard owner. In 12:12 Mark writes, "And they sought to lay hold of Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. And they left Him and went away" (NKJV; cf. Matt 21:45-46).
4Gerhard Friedrich, "prophētēs," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), 6:846. The recognition by the crowd that Jesus was a prophet probably alludes to the prophet to come of Deut 18:15-19. See also R. T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), 300.
5The term "kingdom of heaven" originated in Rabbinic Judaism as an alternative to "the kingdom of YHWH" and most commentators believe that tōn ouranōn (lit. "of the heavens") is a periphrasis or circumlocution for tou Theou ("of God"). Matthew, writing predominantly to Jewish Christians, deferred to them in the avoidance of the use of the name of God. See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2d ed., trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, rev, and augmented F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), s.v. "basileia," 135 (hereafter referred to as BAGD); Francis Wright Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1981), 33; D. A. Carson, "Matthew," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 8:100; W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Limited, 1988), 1:390; France, Matthew, 46; David Hill, The Gospel of Matthew, New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), 301; Bertold Klappert, "King Kingdom," in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 2:376; Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (London: Robert Scott Roxburghe House, Paternoster Row, E. C., 1909), 25; R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), 50-5 1; Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold the King (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1980), 67.
6This type of correspondence between "the kingdom of heaven" in Matthew and "the kingdom of God" in Mark and Luke also occurs in Matt 4:17/Mark 1:15; Matt 5:3/Luke 6:20; Matt 13:11/Mark 4:11/Luke 8:10; Matt 13:31/Mark 4:30/Luke 13:18; Matt 13:33/Luke 13:20; Matt 19:14/Mark 10:14/Luke 18:16; and Matt 19:23/Mark 10:23/Luke 18:24.
7Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:389; Floyd V. Filson, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, Harper's New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1960), 64; France, Matthew, 45-46; Hill, Matthew, 301; Plummer, Matthew, 25; A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1930), vol. 1, pt. 2, "The Gospel According to Matthew," 24-25; Karl Ludwig Schmidt. "basileia," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. and Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), 1:582; Tasker, Matthew, 51.
8Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, rev. Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1958), 1:19; Alexander Balmain Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," in The Expositor's Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (London: Hodder and Stoughton Limited, 1900-1910; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 1:80; Toussaint, Behold the King, 68; Stanley D. Toussaint, "The Kingdom and Matthew's Gospel," in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, ed. Stanley D. Toussaint and Charles H. Dyer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 20.
9Beare, Matthew, 35, 37; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), 95; J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1990), 12-19.
10Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:19; France, Matthew, 45-46; Hill, Matthew, 301.
11Willoughby C. Allen, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Limited, 1912), lxvii, lxix; BAGD, s.v. "basileia," 135; Beare, Matthew, 35, 37; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:389; Toussaint, Behold the King, 68; Toussaint, "The Kingdom and Matthew's Gospel," 20.
12Frederick Dale Bruner, The Christbook (Waco: Word Books, 1987), 122; Carson, "Matthew," 8:100; Plummer, Matthew, 25-26.
13Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:219; Beare, Matthew, 435; Craig L. Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 3 14-15; Alexander Balmain Bruce, The Parabolic Teaching of Christ, 6th ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton Limited, 895), 465; Carson, "Matthew," 8:456; Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, n.d.), 2:428; Robert H. Gundry, Matthew (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 433; H. A. Ironside, Expository Notes on the Gospel of Matthew (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1948), 281; G. H. Lang, The Parabolic Teaching of Scripture (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), 301, 304; Lenski, Matthew, 848; Ethelbert Stauffer, "gameō, gamos," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Limited, 1964), 1:648-57; Toussaint, Behold the King, 254.
14The passages are Matt 22:2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; 25:10; Luke 12:36; 14:8; John 2:1, 2; Heb 13:4; Rev 19:7, 9.
15Paul H. Ballard, "Reasons for Refusing the Great Supper," The Journal of Theological Studies 23 (October 1972): 347; Blomberg, Parables, 233-34; J. Duncan M. Derrett, Law in the New Testament (London: Darton, Longman & Todd Limited, 1970), 134; Edersheim, Life and Times, 1:549; John Navone, "The Parable of the Banquet," The Bible Today 14 (November 1964): 926; Richard Chenevix Trench, Notes on the Parables of our Lord (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1847), 181.
16Stauffer summarizes: "In the world of Israel and Judah, too, there is reference to the marriage between God and the land or people of Israel… Wholly along the lines of the OT the Rabbis extolled the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai as the marriage of Yahweh with Israel… But the final renewal of the covenant between God and the people, intimated by the prophets, was expected by the Rabbis in the days of the Messiah. Thus we often find the view that in these days there will take place the true marriage feast… Jesus moves wholly within the circle of ideas of His contemporaries when He expresses the meaning and glory of the Messianic period in the images of the wedding and the wedding feast."
For Qumran, see for example, Midrash Rabbah Exodus 18:10; 2 Esdras 2:34-48; 1 Samuel 2:11-22. For other examples from extrabiblical literature see Robert Wayne Oliver, "The Concept of the Messianic Banquet in the Teachings of Jesus" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984), 14-24.
17Stauffer, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "gameo, gamos," 1:653-55.
18Edersheim notes that in the Midrash on Lam 4:2, it is mentioned that none of the inhabitants of Jerusalem went to a feast until the invitation had been given and repeated. See Edersheim, Life and Times, 2:427.
19Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:218; Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 465-66; Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1:270; Lenski, Matthew, 848; Alan Hugh M'Neile, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (London: Macmillan & Company Limited, 1915), 314; Robertson, Word Pictures, 1:173; Toussaint, Behold the King, 254.
20Bruce, Robertson, and Toussaint believe these servants refer to John the Baptist and Jesus. See Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1:270; Robertson, Word Pictures, 1:173; Toussaint, Behold the King, 254. Others think these represent John the Baptist, Jesus, the twelve apostles, and the seventy. See Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:218 (does not include Jesus); Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 466 (does not include John the Baptist); Lang, Parabolic Teaching, 303 (does not include John the Baptist); Trench, Parables, 182 (does not include Jesus or the seventy); M'Neile, Matthew, 314 (does not include the seventy). Lenski says the reference is to the post-resurrection apostles only. See Lenski, Matthew, 848. Gundry maintains the reference is to the OT prophets who brought the message of God to Israel. See Gundry, Matthew, 434. It should be noted that some of the commentators consider Jesus Himself to be in this group of servants. But this seems inconsistent since Jesus is the "son" of the parable. He would not likely be one of the servants as well.
21The imperfect tense of "wish" (thelō) indicates a persistent and deliberate refusal. See Carson, "Matthew," 8:456; Robertson, Word Pictures, 1:174; Toussaint, Behold the King, 255.
22The "noon meal" (ariston) is literally "breakfast," the first of two meals, and was taken during the mid-morning. It began the festivities. Lenski specifies the time of this meal as about 9 a.m. (Matthew, 850).
23Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1:270; Carson, "Matthew," 8:456.
24Bruce, Ibid.; Lenski, Matthew, 850.
26The typical identification of the servants of verse four in the commentaries are the apostles after the Resurrection (Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:218 [apostles and evangelists]; Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 467; Ironside, Matthew, 282-84; Lang, Parabolic Teaching, 303; Trench, Parables, 183 [general post-crucifixion invitation]); John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles (M'Neile, Matthew, 314); Jesus and the apostles (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 386]); the apostles with no reference to time (Beare, Matthew, 435; Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1:270; Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, rev. ed., translated by S. H. Hooke [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963], 68); apostles and missionaries (Toussaint, Behold the King, 254); successors to the apostles (Lenski, Matthew, 850); and, along with the first group of servants, as a general reference to all of the messengers and prophets of God (Simon J. Kistemaker, The Parables of Jesus [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980], 103; B. T. D. Smith, The Parables of the Synoptic Gospels [Cambridge: At the University Press, 1937], 204).
27Carson, "Matthew," 8:456.
28David Wenham, The Parables of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 134.
29The term is used four other times in the NT: Luke 11:45; Luke 18:32; Acts 14:5; and 1 Thess 2:2. Our word hubris, "insolent pride or presumption" (Oxford American Dictionary), is derived from this root.
30The violence introduced here unsettles many commentators. Tasker believes that vv 5 and 6 were originally marginal comments that became assimilated into the text in order to harmonize with the violence of 21:35-36 and to stress the persecutions of the early Christians (Matthew, 206). There is no textual evidence to support this. Some hold a similar position in relation to vv 6 and 7. See Robert H. Albers, "Perspectives on the Parables—Glimpses of the Kingdom of God," Word and World 4 (Fall 1984): 452; Allen, Matthew, 234; Benjamin W. Bacon, "Two Parables of Lost Opportunity," The Hibbert Journal 2l (January 1923): 345; Hill, Matthew, 302; M'Neile, Matthew, 315. While it is true that, at this point, the probability of this being a real life occurrence is questionable, it must be remembered that a parable is not a "sober historical narrative" (France, Matthew, 312) but a figurative story in which improbabilities may be introduced in order to make the point. See Bruce, "Synoptic Gospels," 1:271. The violence adds great impact and shows the seriousness of rejecting the king's offer.
31Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:219; Allen, Matthew, 234; Beare, Matthew, 435; France, Matthew, 312; Hill, Matthew, 302; Jeremias, Parables, 69; Lenski, Matthew, 851; M'Neile, Matthew, 315.
32Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 471; Bruce, "Synoptic Gospels," 1:271.
33The Greek plural strateumata refers to a single army. See James Hope Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 3, Syntax, by Nigel Turner (Edinburgh: T. &. T. Clark Limited, 1963), 26. The term may refer to a small detachment of soldiers (cf. Luke 23:11; Acts 23:10, 23, 27), a large army (cf. 2 Maccabees 5:24; Rev 9:16), or possibly the bodyguard of the king (Gundry, Matthew, 437).
34Rather than unwarranted violence Selbie sees vividness and color in the description of the king. He says, "The impulsive and arbitrary action of the king has about it a real touch of Oriental despotism." See W. B. Selbie, "The Parable of the Marriage Feast (Matt. XXII. 1-14)," The Expository Times 37 (October 1925—September 1926): 267.
35This is the only occurrence of "burned" (eneprēse) in the NT, but it appears 46 times in the LXX. All but twice it refers to the physical destruction of something with fire, most commonly cities.
36Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:219; Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., "Matthew," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament ed., ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 71; Beare, Matthew, 435; Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 472; Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1:271; Edersheim, Life and Times, 2:429; France, Matthew, 312; Hill, Matthew, 302; Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 2nd. ed. (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1987), 87; Ironside, Matthew, 284; Jeremias, Parables, 33; Lang, Parabolic Teaching, 303; Lenski, Matthew, 852; M'Neile, Matthew, 315; Pentecost, Parables, 141; Pentecost, Words and Works, 386; Plummer, Matthew, 301; Swete, Parables, 77; Toussaint, Behold the King, 254; Trench, Parables, 186; John F. Walvoord, Matthew (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 165; Wenham, Parables, 135. For objections to this position see Blomberg, Parables, 120-21; Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1:271; Carson, "Matthew," 8:457; France, Matthew, 312; Eduard Lohse, "Sion, Ierousalem, Ierosolyma, Ierosolymites," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), 7:33 1; Bo Reicke, "Synoptic Prophecies on the Destruction of Jerusalem," in Studies in New Testament and Early Christian Literature, ed. David Edward Aune (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972), 123; John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), 20; Tasker, Matthew, 207.
37The phrase tas diexodous tōn hodōn is literally something like "the streets of the ways." Bruce comments: "It is impossible to determine with certainty what is meant by the expression in the text. It may either signify the roads leading out from the town into the country, or the crossings of such, or the streets leading into open places and squares in the town. The general idea is: places where men are likely to be found, whether in town or in country." See Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 459-60. It is expressed nicely in Franklin Mason North's hymn "Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life."
38This is the traditional view of the commentators. See Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1:271; Gundry, Matthew, 437-38; Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 87; Ironside, Matthew, 285; Lang, Parabolic Teaching, 303; Lenski, Matthew, 853-54; Plummer, Matthew, 301; Selbie, "Parable," 268; Swete, Parables, 79; Toussaint, Behold the King, 254; Trench, Parables, 187; Wenham, Parables, 135.
39Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 475-76; Hill, Matthew, 302; Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 87.
40Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 87. For arguments supporting Simon's being a believer, see James Inglis, "Simon Magus" (JOTGES 2 [Spring 1989], 45-54).
41"Guests" is literally "those who are reclining" (tōn anakeimenōn). This reflects the position people took around a banquet table. See also 22:11.
42Some commentators see 22:1-10 as one parable and 22:11-14 as another parable conflated to 1-10. Albers thinks this is because only one man is pictured as not having a garment. See Albers, "Perspectives," 452. Others think the verses are inappropriate because the guests could hardly have been expected to provide suitable garments for themselves. See Allen, Matthew, 234; M'Neile, Matthew, 316; Tasker, Matthew, 207. Some hold this position because of the use of diakonos ("servant") in verse 13 and doulos ("servant") in 1-10. See E. H. Merriman, "Matthew XXII. 1-14," The Expository Times 66 (October 1954— September 1955): 61. Beare and Plummer express this view but give no reason for it. See Beare, Matthew, 436; Plummer, Matthew, 303.
43It was apparently customary for the host not to partake of the meal with the guests. See Jeremias, Parables, 187.
44This one man is representative of a class of people. He illustrates the principle. See Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 477; Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1:272; M'Neile, Matthew, 316.
45Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:220; Barbieri, "Matthew," 71; Ironside, Matthew, 287; Lenski, Matthew, 857; Wil Poteate,Jr., "Matthew and Luke's Use of ho klauthmos kai ho brygmos tōn odontōn" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1989), 66, 69; Toussaint, Behold the King, 256.
46Barbieri, "Matthew," 71; Ironside, Matthew, 286; Kistemaker, Parables, 104-105; Lenski, Matthew, 856; Toussaint, Behold the King, 256.
47Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:220; Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 479-80; Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," 1.272; Carson, "Matthew," 8:457; Edersheim, Life and Times, 2:429; France, Matthew, 313; Tasker, Matthew, 207. Plummer makes an analogy to the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13) and motes that the bridegroom did not provide the oil for the lamps; they had to provide their own. See Plummer, Matthew, 303. Jeremias seems to be inconsistent here. On the one hand he believes that the provision of appropriate clothing for the guests of the banquet by the king was not the custom of the time. Yet he also says, "God clothes the redeemed with the wedding-garment of salvation." See Jeremias, Parables, 65, 188-89.
48Albers, "Perspectives," 453; France, Matthew, 313; Gundry, Matthew, 439; Hill, Matthew, 302-303; Lang, Parabolic Teaching, 309; Smith, Parables, 206; Edmund F. Sutcliffe, "Many Are Called, but Few Are Chosen," The Irish Theological Quarterly 28 (April 1961): 131; Swete, Parables, 80-8 1; Wenham, Parables, 136.
49Carson apparently senses this tension when he notes that the righteous acts represented by the wedding garment are essential, not to enter the banquet, but to remain there. See Carson, "Matthew," 8:457.
50In the Pauline system, the wedding garment of good works is expressed in a passage like Eph 4:22-24. There Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers to put off the corrupt old man, be renewed, and "put on the new man, which was created according to God in righteousness and true holiness" (v 24). The Greek verb for "put on" is endyō, which is the same word here in v 11 ("clothed").
51Many commentators, either implicitly or explicitly, seem to believe that faith is not the sole requirement for entrance into the kingdom. Having equated the wedding banquet with the kingdom, they then add obedience to the salvation formula. The words of Senior are representative of this position: "The 'Church' according to Matthew is, therefore, the assembly of those who respond in faith and obedience to the invitation of the coming kingdom (22:1-14; 21:33-46)." See Donald Senior, What Are They Saying About Matthew? (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), 72. See also the extended discussion in France, Matthew, 313.
52Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 88. The correspondence between the banquet and the kingdom will be discussed shortly.
53Alford, The Greek Testament, 1:220; Beare, Matthew, 313; Carson, "Matthew" 8:457; France, Matthew, 313; Gundry, Matthew, 439-40; Dan O. Via, "The Relationship of Form to Content in the Parables: The Wedding Feast," Interpretation 25 (April 1971): 178. For the amillennialist, this is the general judgment at the second coming of Christ and before the eternal state. For the premillennialist, it is the judgment which precedes the inauguration of the millennial kingdom. See Barbieri, "Matthew," 50; Toussaint, Behold the King, 254. This position seems to be inconsistent since the banquet is clearly set within the confines of the kingdom.
54This interpretation will be further discussed in the commentary on v 13.
55Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 88. Cf. 1 Cor 3:14-15.
56G. H. Lang, Firstborn Sons, 2d. ed. (London and Edinburgh: Oliphants, Limited, 1943), 47.
57The traditional translation, "outer darkness," tends to suggest darkness in outer space, a further influence towards the common interpretation. Ed.
58Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 89; Lang, Parabolic Teaching, 307-308.
59Commentators generally relate "outer darkness" to a place of eternal torment away from God which is reserved for the unbeliever. See Allen, Matthew, 236; Barbieri, "Matthew," 50; Beare, Matthew, 313; Filson, Matthew, 233; Ironside, Matthew, 290; Lenski, Matthew, 858; Poteate, "Matthew and Luke," 67; Robertson, Word Pictures, 1:65.
60See, for example, 1 Sam 2:9: "But the wicked shall be silent in darkness." Jude 13 also describes the false teachers as "wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness is forever kept."
61At this point the commentary tradition seems to treat "the darkness outside" as if it were literal. This may be due to nothing more than the preconceived notion that darkness must refer to a literal hell. But it must be remembered that the parable as a whole and in its parts is symbolic. There is no good reason for "the darkness outside" to be literal when the rest of the story is figurative. Indeed, "the darkness outside" is not literal. It is not a place, but is figurative for an experience of lost rank and sadness that is contrasted to an experience of joy and honor, which is represented by the wedding feast. See Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 89; Charles Stanley, Eternal Security (Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1990), 126-27.
62Pentecost is representative of this view: "Since Christ was using the wedding banquet as a figure of His millennial kingdom, we know this parable teaches the offer of the kingdom." See Pentecost, Kingdom, 231.
63A second problem with the view that the wedding celebration is synonymous with the kingdom concerns the eternal security of the believer. The man who is not properly clothed is most definitely present at the banquet and in the kingdom. If the banquet represents the kingdom of God, which is entered by faith, then it is plain that, when he is cast out of the banquet, he has lost his salvation. This would of course violate the orthodox doctrine of eternal security. It is more satisfying from a theological perspective to see the wedding banquet as being a part of, or within, the kingdom. (Since parables alone cannot be the basis for the formulation of doctrine, the theology of the interpreter must come to bear on the parable to a certain extent.)
64This is the Greek word anaklinō, which is similar to anakeimai in 22:10-11. The idea is to dine at a banquet table, which is the same imagery as in the parable of the wedding celebration.
65Allen, Matthew, 78; France, Matthew, 156.
66Michael G. Huber, "The Concept of the 'Outer Darkness' in the Gospel of Matthew" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1978), 63-64.
67See, for example, Exod 26:4, 1 Kgs 6:29-30; Neh 11:16; Esth 6:4.
68Stanley, Eternal Security, 126.
69Separate references to weeping and to gnashing of teeth are found both in the OT and in the extrabiblical literature. See, for example, Jer 3 1:15; Lam 2:16; Ps 112:10; 1 Enoch 108:3-6; Sirach 30:10.
70Hodges well notes that the expression "weeping and gnashing of teeth" sounds extreme only to the reserved Western mind. The Middle East was (and is) very demonstrative in expressing grief. See Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 119.
71Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, "brychō brygmos," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), 1:642.
72Stanley, Eternal Security, 127.
73Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 90.
74Stanley, Eternal Security, 127. One must be careful, though, not to overemphasize the negative aspect of missing out on the wedding supper. To do so is wrongly to read into the parable an excessively negative view of the kingdom which is not there. Hodges strikes this balance: "No, it is enough to say that the failing Christian has missed a splendid experience of co-reigning with Christ, with all the multiplied joys which that experience implies… Whatever else eternity holds for him, he has at least missed that!" (italics in original). See Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, 90.
75Some scholars suggest that the apocryphal 2 Esdras 8:3 is the source of the saying: "Many have been created, but few shall be saved," but the parallel is not close. See Samuel Tobias Lachs, A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1987), 357; M'Neile, Matthew, 317.
76Musurillo presents the possibility that the saying sums up in a general way all three of the parables beginning in 21:28. See Herbert A. Musurillo, "'Many Are Called, but Few Are Chosen' (Matthew 22:14)," Theological Studies 7 (December 1946): 587.
77This is the position of the majority of the commentators. See Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," France, Matthew, 313-14; Ironside, Matthew, 290; Lenski, Matthew, 859.
78The fact that the English word elect sounds so much like this Greek word (eklektoi) tends to obscure the fact that it in itself simply means "picked out" or "chosen." The translation "elect" is good when the theological meaning is intended. Ed.
79France, Matthew, 313-14; Gundry, Matthew, 440; Lenski, Matthew, 859; Poteate, "Matthew and Luke," 66-67.
80Beare, Matthew, 436; Hill, Matthew, 303; G. Schrenk, "legō, logos, rhēma, laleō, logios, logion, alogos, logikos, logomacheō, logomachia, eklegomai, eklogē, eklektos," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, 4:186-87; Sutcliffe, "Many Are Called," 131. Bruce is representative of this position on these verses: "They convey the thought that a heedless life on the part of the believer in Divine grace may be attended with fatal consequences" (italics supplied). See Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 483.