The Gathering In of Replacements for the Feast
1. (a) How did “those invited” to the marriage feast show that they were “unworthy”? (b) What would it have meant for them to leave their selfish materialistic interests?
WHY did the killing of the antichristian “murderers” at the destruction of their holy city, Jerusalem, and the breaking up of their Jewish nationhood in the year 70 C.E. occur? It was because, as the king in Jesus’ illustration said, those invited to the marriage feast “were not worthy.” (Matt. 22:8) The Jews had proved this by their insulting, disrespectful, disloyal, often violent refusal to act on the heavenly King’s invitation after the second notification from Him. What would it have meant for them to leave their selfish materialistic concerns and come to the spiritual “marriage feast”? It would have meant to repent, not only of their falling short in keeping the Mosaic Law covenant, but also of their violent rejection of the Messiah from God and then to get baptized in water as disciples of Jesus as their Messiah. But they were too proud, too self-righteous, too occupied with their own plans, and so balked against meeting such requirements. This was the case with the nation of Israel in general.
2. (a) Why were not all the marriage feast places left unoccupied at the end of the second notification? (b) How many places did the King have in mind to fill with “worthy” ones?
2 Does this signify that all the places at the “marriage feast” were then left unoccupied? No, not all of them! The Bible record shows that there were some of the “invited” Jews that responded after the first notification and still more Jews and circumcised Jewish converts after the second notification began on the day of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E. But these were really few in comparison with the many seats that were available in the marriage feast room. How many places did the King have in mind to fill? Since those who worthily occupied reclining places at the “table” pictured those who become joint heirs with the King’s Son in the “kingdom of the heavens,” the heavenly King Jehovah counted on filling 144,000 places in order to have the “room for the wedding ceremonies” filled with “worthy” ones. What Jesus Christ shows us in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, proves that. (Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1-3; 20:4-6) That number means many places at the marriage supper.
3, 4. (a) According to Jesus’ illustration, to whom had the opportunity been offered to fill 144,000 places exclusively? (b) Were they numerically able to fill so many places?
3 According to Jesus’ illustration, Jehovah the King threw open the opportunity for the whole nation of Israel in the Law covenant to provide sufficient worthy ones to fill all those 144,000 places. They were the natural fleshly “seed” of Abraham with whom God had made his covenant for the blessing of all the families of the ground by means of such “seed.” (Gen. 12:3; 22:17, 18) The Law covenant into which God had brought them through Moses put them in line for becoming the “kingdom of priests” that God purposed to establish under the Messiah, the Mediator greater than Moses. They were exclusively “those invited” to the spiritual marriage feast.
4 Their nation as a whole could have furnished 144,000 natural Jews to occupy the many places available. The Jewish reservoir for providing the needed candidates was big enough with, doubtless, millions from which to draw. Why, according to Josephus, there were 1,197,000 Jews at the Passover celebration in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. And not all the Jews scattered all around the then inhabited earth were there at the Passover.
5. (a) Those of the natural, fleshly “seed” of Abraham who responded to the invitation were counted by Paul as being what? (b) Nevertheless, were there as many places available as before?
5 Thus there were many, all 144,000, that were invited from among the natural fleshly “seed” of Abraham. But the Bible tabulation shows that merely a few of Abraham’s natural seed acted on their invitation that was built into the Law covenant. About the year 56 C.E., the Christianized Jew, the apostle Paul, estimated the number of the chosen Jews as a mere “remnant” of the nation of Israel. (Rom. 9:27-29; 11:5) Nevertheless, the presence of this Jewish “remnant” in the “room for the wedding ceremonies” left fewer places available than the many, the full 144,000, that were available at the time that the first notification began in 29 C.E.
6. In Jesus’ illustration, how did the king not let his generous purpose be defeated to his disgrace?
6 According to Jesus’ illustration, time was running out for the king with regard to his now ready marriage feast. In view of being turned down by so many of the invitees, how was the king going to have the banqueting room filled with guests in due honor to the occasion? A poor showing in this room would be a disgrace for him, a defeat of his gracious purpose. But the king was not to be defeated. If original invitees did not honor him with their attendance, then he would fill their reserved places with replacements! Promptly before the destruction of the “city” of those “murderers,” the king sent his slaves to locations outside that city, outside that community, “to the roads leading out of the city.” From there the king’s “slaves” would bring in the replacements, yes, “anyone” that they found.
7. What shows whether the king’s slaves gathered in the replacements with the same kind of invitation as the original invitation?
7 These unknown persons, not at their home address, the slaves could persuade to take a place at the marriage feast. This was called an invitation, because those now gathered in did not take the initiative and “crash” the wedding festivities. Those now gathered as replacements were not invited in the sense that the original invitees had been. In the corresponding illustration given by Jesus, in Luke 14:15-24, when the third and final call for guests is made, the householder who spreads the “grand evening meal” says to his slave: “Go out [that is, beyond the city] into the roads and the fenced-in places, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you people, None of those men that were invited shall have a taste of my evening meal.”—Luke 14:23, 24.
8. Who were these that were now gathered in, and when and how did the gathering of these begin?
8 This work of gathering in enough guests from the “roads” outside the “city” of the invited ones began, not in 70 C.E., but in the autumn of 36 C.E., seven years, or a “week of years,” after the baptism and anointing of Jesus, the Son of the heavenly King. (Dan. 9:24-27) The first slave to be sent out was the Christianized Jew, the apostle Peter. He was sent to Caesarea, the provincial capital of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and there he preached to uncircumcised Gentiles, non-Jews. God poured out holy spirit upon the listening Italian centurion, Cornelius, and his believing friends, after which the apostle Peter baptized them. (Acts 10:1 through 11:18) From then on this gathering in of uncircumcised non-Jews has continued on down into this twentieth century. All of these are replacements.
9. (a) To what does Paul liken Abraham and his natural fleshly descendants? (b) Why were “branches” broken off, and how were they replaced?
9 According to the illustration given by the apostle Paul in Romans, chapter eleven, the natural Jews under the Law covenant were like natural branches in an olive tree. This tree has a limited number of branches. They were the natural descendants of God’s friend Abraham and, as such, they were natural heirs of God’s covenant promise to Abraham. The patriarch Abraham was the trunk of this symbolic olive tree, with its roots firmly fixed in that covenant promise of God. But what God wanted was a spiritual “seed” of Abraham, a spiritual Israel. Hence, when the natural Jews who were invited to become a “kingdom of priests” refused to meet the requirements for this, they were broken off the symbolic olive tree; they were not made heirs of the “kingdom of the heavens.” They needed to be replaced, that the symbolic olive tree might be a full-branched one. To meet this emergency, God mercifully grafted on in their places the believing Gentiles, like branches from a wild olive tree. Thus God gets his full spiritual Israel, the spiritual “seed” of Abraham.
THE MAN WITHOUT A “MARRIAGE GARMENT”
10. The time should be close upon us for what feature of the illustration to be fulfilled, and why?
10 Well, now, after all the gathering work of the previous eighteen centuries, there should be comparatively few, or far fewer, replacements needed to be made by the time of this twentieth century. So not many would be gathered. Now since the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 and the start then of the “time of the end,” the time should be upon us when the heavenly King’s “room for the wedding ceremonies” should be filled. In Jesus’ illustration that point is reached, and he goes on to say: “When the king came in to inspect the guests [the reclining ones] he caught sight there of a man not clothed with a marriage garment. So he said to him, ‘Fellow, how did you get in here not having on a marriage garment?’ He was rendered speechless.”—Matt. 22:11, 12.
11. Why was the garmentless man rendered speechless at the king’s question?
11 The king had provided a marriage garment for every guest to wear at the wedding festivities, and so there was no excuse for the garmentless man to be without one. Rightly he was rendered speechless, muzzled. Jesus in his illustration does not say that the man put it on to get in and then took it off. Rather, the man declined the garment when the king’s attendant offered it to him or showed him the king’s wardrobe for guests. The king did not ask him, ‘Why did you take off the marriage garment?’ but, “How did you get in here not having on a marriage garment?” He refused to wear it. He declined to wear it at the feast table. He did not meet the requirements for being there at the table, and he did not belong there. Whom does he picture today?
12. Whom, briefly, does the garmentless man picture, and what do Bible commentators saw that the marriage garment pictured?
12 He pictures those who profess to be godly Christians but who have not put on what was pictured by the “marriage garment.” According to reports, such garments freely provided by the host were long white linen garments, so that all guests were outwardly clothed alike, whether one was originally a Jewish invitee or a Gentile pickup. Hence, many Bible commentators refer to Revelation 19:7, 8, where it is said concerning the Lamb’s wife: “It has been granted to her to be arrayed in bright, clean, fine linen, for the fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the holy ones.” So it is claimed that the “marriage garment” pictures the imputed righteousness of the baptized Christian, his justification.
13. Why does the “marriage garment” picture more than “justification”?
13 However, the marriage garment must signify more than one’s being declared righteous by God through one’s faith in Christ as the ransom sacrifice. (Rom. 5:1, 9) Such justification or being declared righteous now is not an end in itself; it does not now stand alone. Its purpose now is that the justified one should be adopted by God the Justifier as his spiritual son and become a member of the spiritual “seed” of Abraham and thus a member of spiritual Israel. As such, this adopted son of God is taken into the new covenant mediated by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. (Gal. 4:4-7; Rom. 8:16, 17; Luke 22:19, 20) Hence, the “marriage garment” symbolizes all that for the repentant, baptized guest at the feast. So it is one’s identification as a spiritual Israelite, one of Abraham’s spiritual “seed.”
14. Whom, then, did the garmentless man picture?
14 Since the lone one whom the king discovered was not wearing the available marriage garment, he pictured the class who did not exercise faith and take due action in harmony with faith to be declared righteous by God and adopted as his spiritual son and taken into the new covenant that is made with spiritual Israel through Christ. He does not picture Christians who have been anointed with God’s spirit and made joint heirs with Christ but who prove unfaithful to God and lose out on the heavenly kingdom. Rather, he pictures imitation Christians, of whom Christendom today is composed and who claim and pretend to be at the marriage feast “table.” God the King never recognized them as being there with the proper identification, and so he did not anoint them with holy spirit as Kingdom heirs.
15, 16. (a) The time must come for the King to do what with respect to the garmentless class? (b) When is it that the King would come in to inspect the guests?
15 The time must come when God exposes the wrongness of the claim and pretense of being at the marriage feast “table” as made by Christendom and to execute adverse judgment upon her before the eyes of all onlookers. God the King does this when he as the Arranger of the marriage feast for his Son ‘comes in to inspect the guests.’ According to Jesus’ illustration, this must occur when the “room for the wedding ceremonies” is “filled.” (Matt. 22:10, 11) With the filling of this room with enough guests the gathering work by the king’s slaves would stop. As the gathering of the ones to be “chosen” is done under the invisible guidance of God’s angels, the heavenly King would come in and inspect when the work foretold by Jesus is fulfilled at the conclusion of the system of things:
16 “Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.”—Matt. 24:30, 31.
17, 18. (a) The completion of that gathering work would be the time for determining what with regard to the garmentless class? (b) How does Jesus’ illustration show what will be done then to that class?
17 The completion of this gathering of the “chosen ones” would take place shortly before the “great tribulation” that Jesus compared with the deluge of Noah’s day begins. (Matt. 24:21, 22, 37-41) So, at that time of inspection made by the heavenly King, would the class pictured by the man without the marriage garment be taken along as one of the “chosen” ones? Or would this class be left to share with “all the tribes of the earth” who beat themselves in lamentation because of the coming destruction? The class that makes up Christendom has no excuse to offer to the King for trying to be at the “marriage feast” without the symbolic garment. That class can offer no reason for being allowed to enjoy the “wedding ceremonies” and “feast.” At the time of the final inspection, that class is found “speechless.” How will the King treat that class? Jesus’ illustration shows:
18 “Then the king said to his servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the darkness outside. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.’”—Matt. 22:13.
19. Into what will that class be thrown out, and what will it fail to enjoy?
19 So this class is bound beyond all ability to offer resistance. It is cast thus into the “darkness outside,” outside where the darkness is not alleviated by such things as street lamps. There, with no enlightenment of any kind from God, that class will weep and gnash its teeth, in the “great tribulation” in which religious Babylon the Great and all the rest of this system of things will be destroyed. (Rev. 17:14-18) That class will be cut off from the “kingdom of the heavens” and will have no part in the “evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage” in the heavens above.—Rev. 19:9.
MANY INVITED, FEW CHOSEN
20. With what statement did Jesus round off his illustration, and did this refer to the garmentless man?
20 In order to round off the illustration and to show the point of it, Jesus said: “For there are many invited, but few chosen.” (Matt. 22:14) Jesus was not saying those words with reference to the ejected man without the required marriage garment.a This man was not the main feature of the illustration. Certainly the man did not picture what was left of the “many” invited ones after the “few” chosen ones had been taken out. Correspondingly, the “guests” who wear the marriage garment and who are not thrown out of the “room for the wedding ceremonies” do not picture the “few” that had been chosen from the Jewish nation after the vast majority of all the “invited” Jews had excused themselves. Whom, then, did Jesus mean by the “many” that had been invited, and whom by the “few” chosen?
21. Who, then, were the few that were chosen, and did they make up all the “guests” that recline at the “marriage feast”?
21 The “many” invited were the Jewish nation that was in the Law covenant, which offered help to the Jews to become a “kingdom of priests” to God. The “few” chosen as worthy of the “kingdom of the heavens” were the “remnant” of natural Jews who acted on the notification from the heavenly King. Such Jews left worldly concerns behind, came to the “room for the wedding ceremonies” and accepted the “marriage garment” from the King, put it on and then reclined at the “table.” Because, by the year 36 C.E., merely a “few” (Jews) acted on notification from God the King, he found it necessary to send his “slaves” out beyond the Jewish “city” or community with orders to bring in replacements from the uncircumcised Gentiles. Eventually a roomful of guests results. So the “few” that made up the Jewish remnant were only part of the “guests” at the feast.
22. (a) How did God the King show his choosing of the garmented “guests”? (b) What was Jesus’ illustration meant to show regarding the King’s having a marriage feast?
22 Hence, all the “guests” clothed with the marriage garment picture more than just the “remnant” of Jews who became spiritual Israelites. The “guests” include also all the faithful Gentile replacements. God duly indicated his choosing of all these garmented “guests” by anointing them with his holy spirit through his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus’ illustration nowhere pictures, and was not meant to picture, that an unknown number of anointed Christians would turn unfaithful and prove unworthy of the “kingdom of the heavens.” Jesus’ illustration was meant to show that the heavenly King would succeed in having a fully attended “marriage feast” in spite of difficulties. He would have a successful “marriage feast” in fulfillment of his gracious purpose.
23. Did the King Jehovah have his “slaves” bring in an overload of prospective “guests,” or in what way did he proceed?
23 All along the King Jehovah knew how many reclining places he would have at the feasting “table.” So he would not have his “slaves” bring in an overload of prospective “guests.” He would have his slaves bring in only as many as were needed to fill all the places available. In his due time he had his “slaves” bring in a remnant from the originally invited Jews. After that he called for all the needed replacements from all uncircumcised Gentile nations. Gradually all places would be “filled.”
24. (a) What does Jesus’ illustration not show as respects the man thrown out? (b) In the fulfillment, why is there no need to bring in replacements for that garmentless class?
24 One thing Jesus’ illustration does not show. What? That, after the man without the marriage garment was thrown out, the king would send out a slave to bring in a replacement for that man. Certainly the king would not send out a slave into the night, “into the darkness outside,” to hunt up a replacement for the man thrown out. What person would be on “the roads” outside the city at that hour of the night? The king approves of the garmented wedding guests (reclining ones), and the feast now goes forward with all these and without the garmentless man who was thrown outside. In the fulfillment of the final part of Jesus’ illustration today, there is no need to bring in a replacement for Christendom and her religious crowd. They merely tried to get in to the feasting table without meeting the divine requirements. Their pretense at being there does not work.
25. (a) So, who does the calling or inviting, and how? (b) How is the choosing indicated, and what is required of those chosen?
25 Jehovah the King does the calling or inviting. As in the case of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity, God first reads the heart of the person to whom he gives attention. Then, because of the promising attitude of the heart, God sends the needed aid to the responsive one. This one thus gets the Bible instruction concerning the hope of the heavenly kingdom. Consequently, not all the hundreds of millions who are having “this good news of the kingdom” preached to them are thereby having God’s invitation extended to them to attend the spiritual “marriage feast.” (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) The majority are merely receiving a “witness” concerning the Kingdom. The ones really “invited,” who meet God’s requirements, are then “chosen” by his anointing of them with holy spirit to be joint heirs of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 1:21; 1 John 2:20, 27) Now that they have been thus chosen, they must prove faithful to the end.—Rev. 17:14; 2:10.
26. What are the chosen “guests” yet on earth enjoying now, and what will the faithful ones enjoy after the “great tribulation”?
26 Today the whole world of mankind is in trouble, in this “time of the end” of the system of things. But the faithful chosen “guests” in the brilliantly lighted “room for the wedding ceremonies” are experiencing the joys and blessings of the King’s approval. After they hold fast to their Christian integrity clear through the approaching “great tribulation” that brings the end of the worldly system of things, they will be admitted to the “evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage” in the heavens above. (Rev. 19:7, 9) Since they will make up the “bride” of Christ, this is doubtless why the bride of the king’s son is not mentioned and is not introduced into Jesus’ illustration.b All the 144,000 chosen and faithful members of the Bridal congregation will there enjoy the meal with their Bridegroom.
27. With whom is the remnant of the Bridal congregation now associating on earth, and how do these honor the King and his Bridegroom Son?
27 A marriage and wedding festivities suggest bridesmaids. Well, Psalm 45:13-15 indicated prophetically that there would be some in attendance. Today, when the Bridal congregation of Christ is nearing completion, they are associating with the “remnant” of that congregation. Of course, these figurative bridesmaids do not expect to go to heaven with the “remnant,” but they honor the heavenly King and his Bridegroom Son, and show due respect for the remnant of the Bridal congregation. Revelation 7:9-17 portrays that there would be a numberless “great crowd” of these companions.
28. Whom are those of this “great crowd” now helping, and what will be their reward through the Eternal Father?
28 They rejoice in the outworking of this beautiful feature of God’s purpose, and render loving help to the remnant of the Bride class. They reverently join in the worship and service of the heavenly King at his spiritual temple palace. From Him they will receive lasting life benefits through his Bridegroom Son as their Eternal Father. (Isa. 9:6, 7) Endless blessings will be theirs on a paradisaic earth under the kingdom of God’s wedded Son.
a “This remark in the 14th verse is the inference of the whole parable and not of the part about the man without the wedding garment.”—Page 104 of Barnes Notes on the New Testament, printing of 1963. The Jerusalem Bible (1966) says, in a footnote on Matthew 22:14: “This sentence appears to refer to the first part of the parable rather than to the second. It is a question not of the elect as a whole but of the Jews, the first to be invited. The parable . . . neither asserts nor denies that some (a ‘few’) of the Jewish people have accepted the invitation and are ‘chosen’.”
b Compare the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-12) in this same regard.
[Picture on page 697]
In Jesus’ parable the king commanded his servants to throw out the man who refused to wear a marriage garment. This man pictured imitation Christians, of whom Christendom is composed