The King’s Marriage Feast in the Purpose of God
“The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man, a king that made a marriage feast for his son. And he sent forth his slaves to call those invited to the marriage feast, but they were unwilling to come.”—Matt. 22:2, 3.
1. What has been preached to the nations for sixty years now, and what historic example shows whether their reaction to this will be of benefit?
THE whole world is in trouble. There is no reason to doubt that the system of things under which it lives is in the foretold “time of the end.” For the past sixty years the “kingdom of the heavens,” the “kingdom of God,” has been proclaimed in all quarters of the globe as the “only hope” for distressed mankind. But the vast majority of mankind does not believe in this divine remedy. The people in general do not want it. They are like a nation of people that, nineteen hundred years ago, did not want the “kingdom of the heavens,” when it was offered to them. Their turning down this valid offer did not result in good for their nation. In the light of their national experience, the turning away from the “kingdom of the heavens” today will be of no benefit to those who prefer human schemes and arrangements to this “only hope” for our troubled world.—Dan. 12:4; Matt. 3:1, 2; 4:17; Mark 1:14, 15; Luke 6:20.
2. When, where and to whom did the “kingdom of the heavens” begin to be preached, and to what nation was it to be given?
2 Long ago, the Roman Empire was only in its first century of rule over the Middle East when the “kingdom of the heavens,” the “kingdom of God,” began to be proclaimed there. The year 33 of our Common Era was the fourth year of its proclamation. This kingdom was the subject of heated discussion in the Jewish city of Jerusalem. Discussion of it reached even into the world-famous temple in that holy city. In the course of a discussion, the leading Proclaimer of the good news of the Kingdom said to his many listeners, who included the chief priests and men of the sect of the Pharisees: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matt. 21:43-46) According to those words, the kingdom of God was then soon to be taken away from their nation and be given over to a newly formed nation that would produce fruitage identifying it as being ruled by the kingdom of God. The speaker’s words came true, for to this day the once favored nation does not have the kingdom of God.
3. How did the speaker start off the illustration that bears upon his prophetic words?
3 What was the reason for this to come about? The speaker of those prophetic words went on to illustrate by telling another one of his meaning-packed parables. A man who heard it made a record of it for us, and he starts off this particular account by saying: “In further reply Jesus again spoke to them with illustrations, saying: ‘The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man, a king, that made a marriage feast for his son. And he sent forth his slaves to call those invited to the marriage feast, but they were unwilling to come.’”—Matt. 22:1-3.
4. What shows whom the “man, a king,” in Jesus’ illustration, pictured?
4 The chief figure in this illustration was the “man, a king.” Of whom, then, was he an illustration? He illustrated God himself, for the whole parabolic illustration started off by saying, “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man, a king,” in taking certain action that met up with a certain reaction. The expression “the kingdom of the heavens” means the same as “the kingdom of God,” for God rules supreme in the invisible spirit heavens. For instance, the ancient ruler of Babylon was put through a humiliating experience for this stated purpose: “until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it . . . after you know that the heavens are ruling.” (Dan. 4:25, 26) Jesus was referring to God when he said concerning Jerusalem: “Do not swear . . . by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King.” To this heavenly King, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, saying: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matt. 5:34, 35; 6:9, 10.
5. Who is the “son” for whom the heavenly King makes the “marriage feast,” and what is the proof of this?
5 The king in Jesus’ illustration is said to have a son. However, God the heavenly King has hundreds of millions of spirit sons, who are Scripturally called “sons of God.” (Job 38:7; Dan. 7:9, 10) Which of these many sons is the one meant in Jesus’ parable? It is the Son of sons in God’s heavenly family. It is for this foremost son that the heavenly King makes a “marriage feast,” and the Sacred Scriptures show that this son is the speaker of the parabolic illustration, Jesus Christ himself. John the Baptizer, who baptized Jesus, said with reference to the baptized Jesus: “I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent forth in advance of that one. He that has the bride is the bridegroom. However, the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. Therefore this joy of mine has been made full.” (John 3:28, 29) In another illustration, Jesus meant himself, when he said: “Then the kingdom of the heavens will become like ten virgins that took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”—Matt. 25:1; 9:15.
6, 7. (a) Who is the “bride” of this Son of the heavenly King? (b) Ephesians 5:23-32 likens the relationship between Jesus Christ and his congregation to what?
6 Like any prospective bridegroom, Jesus must have had great pleasure when thinking and speaking about this “bride” whom the King, his heavenly Father, would give him. The “bride” is, of course, not an individual person, not an individual disciple of Jesus Christ. To the contrary, it is a composite or collective person, his whole body or congregation of faithful anointed disciples. This should not appear strange. In the prophecies of the Bible the ancient nation of Israel is likened to the wife of Jehovah God, because the nation was, as it were, married to Him by accepting the Law covenant that was mediated by the prophet Moses at Mount Sinai in Arabia. (Isa 54:5; Jer. 3:14; 31:31, 32) So the relationship between the Son of God and his anointed congregation is likened to that of a husband and wife; as we read:
7 “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it. This sacred secret is great. Now I am speaking with respect to Christ and the congregation.”—Eph. 5:23, 25, 32.
8. Where and how will the marriage of the heavenly King’s Son and his “bride” be consummated?
8 The consummating of the marriage between the King’s Son and his figurative “bride” will be by the uniting of Jesus Christ and his faithful congregation in the spirit heavens in connection with the “kingdom of the heavens.” The members of this anointed congregation must be faithful, like an espoused virgin, to Jesus Christ down to their death. In reward for their virgin faithfulness till the end of their earthly course, they will be resurrected from the dead to be his heavenly “bride,” his Bridal congregation, forever in the house of the Heavenly Father and King.—2 Cor. 11:2, 3.
“THOSE INVITED TO THE MARRIAGE FEAST”
9. In Jesus’ illustration, what relationship did those invited to the “marriage feast” bear to the king, and what would their favorable action toward the invitation show?
9 An invitation to the marriage feast of his son was a great favor on the part of the king. Those whom he invited were persons over whom he was the king. They were his subjects. He knew them by name. He knew where they lived within his realm, and so he could send his slaves to their address to notify them at the time that the feast was ready, to which feast they had already been invited. Favorable action of these invited persons when they got notification of the readiness of the feast would display due respect for their king. Whom, then, did “those invited to the marriage feast” in Jesus’ illustration picture?
10. At the time of the illustration, Jehovah God was King over what people, and by what arrangement?
10 Well, since the king pictures Jehovah God, who, then, were the people over whom He was the king at that time? To whom was it that Jesus said, “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits”? It was the Jewish nation. In the year 1513 B.C.E. Jehovah God had brought them into a covenant with him through the mediatorship of his prophet Moses, at Mount Sinai. They willingly entered this covenant, to keep its Law code, the foundation laws of which were the famous Ten Commandments. (Ex. 19:1 through 24:8) Especially by this covenant arrangement, Jehovah became the heavenly King over this people, and this meant that they were now a “nation” subject to Him. (Deut. 33:5) The Israelites had already sung His praises as their King, after he had delivered them from death in the Red Sea, singing out: “Jehovah will rule as king to time indefinite, even forever.”—Ex. 15:18.
11, 12. (a) How had the nation of Israel become the Name people of God? (b) How was it that God could send an invitation to them by their national name?
11 This heavenly King has a name—Jehovah—and, by virtue of bringing the nation of Israel into a Law covenant with him as their God, they became his Name people. His name was called upon them. Said the mediator Moses to the covenant people of Israel: “Jehovah will establish you as a holy people to himself, just as he swore to you, because you continue to keep the commandments of Jehovah your God, and you have walked in his ways. And all the peoples of the earth will have to see that Jehovah’s name has been called upon you, and they will indeed be afraid of you.” (Deut. 28:9, 10) To this chosen nation, Jehovah said, by the mouth of his prophet Amos: “You people only have I known out of all the families of the ground.” (Amos 3:2) Not only was the nation identified by His name, but He knew the nation by name.
12 To it, He said, by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah: “And now this is what Jehovah has said, your Creator, O Jacob, and your Former, O Israel: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have repurchased you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.’” (Isa. 43:1) So, if He desired to send an invitation to them or give them a standing invitation, He could do so by the national name.
13. How did the heavenly King know the address of “those invited to the marriage feast,” and this fact was shown in the case of whose birth?
13 The king of Jesus’ illustration knew the addresses of those whom he had invited to the marriage feast. Likewise Jehovah knew the “address” of his chosen people, his invited people. He knew where they lived. It was the land that He had promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the land to which He had faithfully brought them. Even after their exile in the land of Babylon, Jehovah restored them to that same land. Under no misdirection, Jehovah the King sent his Son Jesus to that land. It was no mistake or accident that Jesus the Descendant of Abraham and of King David was born in the city of Bethlehem in the Province of Judea, in the autumn of the year 2 B.C.E. Centuries in advance, by His prophet Micah, Jehovah the King had foretold the address for this miraculous birth.—Mic. 5:2.
14. Was it first when the messengers of notification arrived that the initial invitation was given to “those invited,” or what relation did notification bear to invitation?
14 In fulfillment of Jesus’ illustration, Jehovah the King knew the addresses or locations of “those invited to the marriage feast.” Naturally, then, he knew where to send his messengers of notification at the time that the marriage feast, to which they had already been invited, was ready and it was the hour for them to come with keen appetites. The invitation to the feast was not first extended to them when the messengers of notification called at their homes to tell them the feast was now ready and they should come at once. Such a call was merely something supplementary, not the original invitation. Well, now, when and in what way had they already been “invited” or been given the initial call?
15. (a) In what year was the invitation to the “marriage feast” extended, and to whom? (b) On that occasion, the invitation was contained in what, and in what terms?
15 This was, in fact, in the year 1513 B.C.E., and the way in which it was done was by the action of God the King, by his bringing the people of Israel into the Law covenant through Moses as mediator. The initial call or “invitation” was extended to the Israelites as a nation, not as individuals, for the nation rather than the individual members was what would continue to exist until the King’s “wedding feast” was prepared and ready to be served. The initial call or “invitation” to the nation of Israel was included in God’s terms that set forth the benefit to the nation of Israel for entering and keeping the Law covenant with Jehovah God. When proposing the covenant to Israel at Mount Sinai, God told Moses to say: “And now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”—Ex. 19:1-6.
16. (a) On what basis was the Law covenant concluded with the nation of Israel, and how? (b) To whom did both the obligations and the invitation contained in that covenant extend, till when?
16 Kingdom prospects were thus set before the nation of Israel, the opportunity, really the invitation, to become a “kingdom of priests.” Such a priestly kingdom would act as God’s servant for the benefit of all the rest of mankind. The people of Israel accepted this invitation from their heavenly King by accepting His proposals and saying: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” Accordingly, God the King concluded the Law covenant with the nation of Israel over sacrifices carried out by the mediator Moses. (Ex. 19:7, 8; 24:1-12) Not only the obligations of that Mosaic Law covenant, but also the invitation to become a “kingdom of priests” extended to the natural descendants of those covenant-making Israelites down to the first century of our Common Era. (Rom. 9:4, 5; Acts 3:25, 26) Because those natural descendants of the first century C.E. were an “invited” nation, God the King was acting in line with the terms of his covenant by raising up John the Baptist and sending him to preach to the nation of Israel: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.”—Matt. 3:1, 2.
17. (a) How does a “marriage feast” for the king’s son have a connection with a kingdom? (b) What further function will be served by those making up the “bride” of the Eternal Father?
17 What, though, does a “kingdom of priests” have to do with a king’s wedding feast for his son? That there is a connection between the two things Jesus Christ himself inferred by introducing his illustration with the words: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man, a king, that made a marriage feast for his son.” (Matt. 22:1, 2) Naturally the “bride” whom the king’s son married would become a princess and, ordinarily, a queen elect, a queen designate. Correspondingly, the “bride” whom God the King marries to his Son Jesus Christ is his anointed congregation of faithful disciples. In the heavens these faithful anointed disciples are to be more than a “bride” to Jesus Christ as the one who will become the “Eternal Father” to the redeemed race of mankind. They are also to be joint heirs with their heavenly Bridegroom in the Kingdom that God the King assigns to his Son Jesus Christ over all mankind.
18. How did Jesus keep the Kingdom hope before his disciples in his Sermon on the Mount and at his last Passover?
18 Jesus Christ constantly set this Kingdom hope before his true disciples. In his Sermon on the Mount, he said to them: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. . . . For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 5:3, 10; 6:32, 33) And on the night of the last Passover with his faithful apostles and after Jesus had set up the Lord’s Supper, he said to them: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.”—Luke 22:23-30.
19. How is it that the royal Son does not remain such without a kingdom, and how does the Bridal congregation share with him?
19 So the Bridal congregation of Jesus Christ is to share with him, they being his joint heirs in the heavenly kingdom and he being their Bridegroom head. He is to be a Ruler like the ancient Melchizedek, who was both the king of Salem and the priest of the Most High God and hence a king-priest. (Gen. 14:18-20; Ps. 110:1-4; Heb. 5:5, 6; 6:20 through 7:28) Jesus Christ serves as Jehovah’s High Priest, and the Bridal congregation of Christ provides the underpriests. In this way the true Christian congregation becomes a “kingdom of priests.” To this congregation, the apostle Peter wrote, saying: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) Thus Jesus Christ the Son of God does not remain a royal Son without a kingdom, but God the King assigns to the Son a special kingdom over all mankind, and his Bride class shares this Messianic kingdom with him.—Rom. 8:16, 17.
ATTITUDE OF “THOSE INVITED TO THE MARRIAGE FEAST”
20. (a) What about the generation came under question when informed that it was the one able to attend the marriage feast? (b) What question arises as to how many would respond favorably?
20 Through being taken into the Mosaic Law covenant the nation of Israel had a wonderful privilege and “invitation” offered to them. With respect to the “marriage feast” arranged for by their God, Jehovah the King, they were a nation of “invited” ones. But there were conditions attached to their becoming a “kingdom of priests.” The question therefore arises, What would be the attitude of the nation when notified that it was the generation favored with the opportunity of now acting on their King’s invitation and entering into the marriage festivities? Would as many individuals of the nation respond favorably as the number of the places or seats within the marriage feast chamber? There was an opportunity for many, because the illustration indicates that the king invited many and that there were many lounges provided for the invitees to recline at the festal table.
21. When was it that the heavenly King began to send out his “slaves” to notify the “invited” ones that the feast was ready?
21 When, in fulfillment of the parable, was it that God the King sent out his “slaves” to notify the “invited” ones that the time for the “marriage feast” had arrived and so they should come at once? This was after the water baptism of Jesus and the anointing of him with God’s holy spirit so as to become the Christ, the one anointed to be the Messianic King. When Jesus Christ returned from forty days spent in the Judean wilderness, John the Baptist pointed to him and said to listeners, “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” John not only identified Jesus as the figurative Lamb that was to be sacrificed for rescuing the world of mankind from the penalty of sin but also testified that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Shortly after this, the anointed Jesus began his teaching work with some who began to follow him as the Messiah. One of these, named Andrew, found his brother Simon and said to him: “‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means, when translated, Christ).” (John 1:26 through 2:2) Thus Jesus began forming a body of disciples.
22. How long did the first period of notification last, and who were then the ones notified?
22 Not only Jesus Christ taught and preached God’s Messianic kingdom but he also sent out his Jewish disciples to preach with him: “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 10:1-7; Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-9) In this way the heavenly King, Jehovah God, sent out his “slaves” under the Law covenant to give the first notification. This went on from the fall of the year 29 C.E. to the spring of 33 C.E., or about three and a half years. These “slaves” were sent only to “those invited.” That is to say, the Jewish nation under the Mosaic Law covenant that afforded an opportunity to become a “kingdom of priests.” In recognition of “those invited,” Jesus said to the disciples whom he sent out to announce that the time had come: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Samaritan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And with reference to himself, Jesus said: “I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”—Matt. 10:5, 6; 15:24.
23. How did Jesus show that it was the right time for the first call, but how did his illustration indicate the attitude of the ones invited?
23 It was the right time for this initial notification work. Jesus reminded the “house of Israel” of this divine timing of things, when he said to the Jews: “The appointed time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Be repentant, you people, and have faith in the good news.” (Mark 1:15) But did the nationwide preaching by the “slaves” of the heavenly King result in a national repentance and conversion and an acceptance of the King’s Son as the royal Messiah? It was almost at the end of the first call of notification that Jesus described how this initial call had been received. In his illustration he went on to say: “But they were unwilling.”
24. Just how stubborn was the unwillingness on the part of “those invited,” and with what event did the first call end?
24 Ah, yes, there had been no national conversion, no nationwide acceptance of the King’s Son Jesus Christ as the Messiah for whom a royal “marriage feast” was in store. Their unwillingness was so stubborn that they prevailed upon the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to put him to death on Passover day of 33 C.E. Thus Jesus died as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, 36) His death as a perfect human sacrifice was to result in lasting benefit for those “invited” to the King’s real “marriage feast.” However, this sacrificial death ended direct, personal participation of Jesus Christ in the notification work. In this way, the first call to “those invited” ended.
25. (a) Why did God’s purpose for the marriage feast not then fail? (b) Why did God still give recognition to those originally “invited” according to the Law covenant?
25 What, then? Was the preparation of the King’s “marriage feast for his son” all in vain? Was it now doomed to failure? No, not according to the purpose of God the King. Almighty God raised his faithful Son Jesus Christ from the dead and exalted him to a royal seat at God’s right hand in the heavens. (Acts 2:32-36; Ps. 110:1, 2; Matt. 22:41-45) In God’s presence the resurrected Jesus presented the value of his human sacrifice as the Lamb of God, and this brought the Mosaic Law covenant with its subhuman animal sacrifices to an end. In spite of this canceling out of the Law covenant and the establishing of a new covenant with Jesus Christ as Mediator, Jehovah God the King still mercifully gave recognition to “those invited to the marriage feast” according to the Law covenant. He did this because they were the natural born “house of Israel” and the natural, fleshly offspring of the faithful patriarch Abraham, God’s friend.—Dan. 9:24, 27.
SECOND NOTIFICATION OF THE “INVITED ONES”
26. How did the resurrected Jesus indicate a second notification was to be given to the invitees to fill all places exclusively?
26 Jehovah God the King had cause for great indignation against the nation of “invited” ones, but he gave the nation a further opportunity of exclusively occupying all seats at the purposed “marriage feast for his son.” He sent them a second notification, but a final one. Jesus Christ indicated that extended mercy of God to the invitees, when he said to his disciples just before his ascension to heaven: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and [first after that] Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
27. How did Jesus illustrate what the reaction of the invitees would be to the second notification?
27 What the reaction to this second notification on the part of the nation in general would be, Jesus foretold in his illustration, saying: “Again he [the king] sent forth other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Look! I have prepared my dinner, my bulls and fattened animals are slaughtered, and all things are ready. Come to the marriage feast.”’ But unconcerned they went off, one to his own field, another to his commercial business; but the rest, laying hold of his slaves, treated them insolently and killed them.”—Matt. 22:4-6.
28. When did the second notification begin, and what charge of the Jewish Supreme Court shows that the nation of invitees was being notified?
28 This part of Jesus’ illustration began on the day of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E., when holy spirit was poured out upon Jesus’ waiting disciples and they began preaching the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom in Jerusalem to the Jews and circumcised proselytes to Judaism. How many hundreds of thousands of celebrators from many parts of the earth were there at Jerusalem, the inspired record does not say. Thousands of celebrators began to hear the good news about the resurrected Jesus the Messiah. Before long, the Jewish Supreme Court said to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ: “Look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” (Acts 5:27, 28) Unquestionably, the nation of “invited” ones was being notified, now for the second time.
29. How did those invited respond to the king’s second call, and what record shows how true Jesus’ illustration was on this?
29 How did the mass of the nation respond to the heavenly King’s second reminder of their invitation to the now ready “marriage feast”? With insult to the King and with disdain for his marriageable Son, by showing more personal concern for their materialistic interests than for dignifying the King by presenting themselves at the marriage feast for His Son! They even resorted to outright murder of his obedient “slaves,” the Christian preachers of the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom. A person just has to read the book of Acts of the Apostles, Ac chapters three through nine, to have a historic record of how true was Jesus’ prophetic illustration in this regard.
30, 31. (a) When did the second notification end? (b) In the illustration, after rejection of his second notification, what did the king do?
30 Not otherwise, then, that second notification of the ones invited came to an end, had to come to an end according to prophecy. It did so in the year 36 C.E., three and a half years after the martyrdom of Jesus Christ at Jerusalem. How was this? Jesus’ illustration pictured how. Pointing to the punishment that was to come upon the nation of “those invited” for disloyally rejecting the invitation of their heavenly King, Jesus said:
31 “But the king grew wrathful, and sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The marriage feast indeed is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Therefore go to the roads leading out of the city, and anyone you find invite to the marriage feast.’ Accordingly those slaves went out to the roads and gathered together all they found, both wicked and good; and the room for the wedding ceremonies was filled with those reclining at the table.”—Matt. 22:7-10.
32. Does the word order in Jesus’ illustration mean that the king delayed further marriage feast arrangements until after he had the city of those “invited” destroyed?
32 From the above word order of Jesus in setting out the details of the illustration, we are not to understand that, before the king paid any further attention to the marriage feast, he ordered out his armies for active service and sent them against the city where unappreciative “invited” ones lived and “destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” Otherwise, it would mean that the heavenly King, Jehovah God, did not send out his slaves to gather in people indiscriminately to the wedding feast until late in the year 70 of our Common Era, for it was in the summer of that year that Jerusalem was razed to the ground by the Romans under General Titus the son of Emperor Vespasian. Then, indeed, those “murderers” were killed. As reported by Flavius Josephus, 1,100,000 Jews perished in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and 97,000 were carried away captive to be disposed of as slaves.—Luke 21:20-24; 19:41-44.
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In a parable about a king who spread a marriage feast, Jesus showed that some who think they are going to heaven are not going to make it