Jesus used the parable of the wedding feast to teach his disciples the difference between being saved and being sanctified. He said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come” (Matthew 22:2-3). The invitation to the wedding feast represented God’s divine call to partake of the blessings of redemption. Even though the invitation could be refused as was stated in their response “they would not come,” attendance at the wedding feast was not optional with regards to participation in the kingdom of heaven. After a second invitation was sent out, Jesus said, “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city” (Matthew 22:5-7). The similarity between what happened in Jesus’ parable and what happened to the nation of Israel when they rejected God and were sent into captivity seems to suggest that the invitation to the wedding feast was an open one that could be accepted at anytime because God brought the Israelites back to the Promised Land and gave them a second chance.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians stated that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9). Paul explained that the reason why some people reject God’s invitation to be saved is because of their dulled spiritual perception. He said, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:17-18). The Greek word that is translated alienated, apallotrioo (ap-al-lot-ree-o’) means “to be non-participant” (G526). In other words, the reason why people are not saved is because they choose to not participate. As was stated in Jesus’ parable, “they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business” (Matthew 22:5).
The lives of Jacob and his twelve sons were also somewhat of a parable in that they illustrated the various ways that people become alienated from God. Jacob described his son Joseph as being “set apart from his brothers.” That meant that Joseph was consecrated, “separated from his brethren to become the savior of his father, his brethren, and their families” (H5139). Initially, Joseph’s brothers rejected his role in God’s plan of salvation, but when there was a famine in the land and they had no food to eat, “Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground” (Genesis 42:6) just as it had been revealed to them in a dream (Genesis 37:9). Joseph’s brothers accepted his invitation to come and live with him in Egypt so that their families wouldn’t starve to death and although Jacob was at first stunned by the news that his son Joseph was still alive, he too accepted Joseph’s invitation and went to live in the land of Goshen, a fertile valley where his family was able to thrive and multiply in numbers over hundreds of years so that God could make them into a great nation (Genesis 46:3).
Jacob’s twelve sons all participated in God’s provision for their physical needs, but their destinies with respect to the eternal kingdom that God planned to establish on earth were not the same. Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph resulted in him receiving the blessing that was bestowed on Abraham and Isaac, the blessing that Jacob had stolen from his brother Esau (Genesis 27:18-23). Rather than passing the blessing to Joseph, Jacob gave his blessing to Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim. He said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Genesis 48:15-16). Jacob’s mention of the angel who redeemed him from all evil was a reference to the man he wrestled with until the breaking of the day (Genesis 32:24), the preincarnate Jesus Christ (Genesis 32:30). Jacob had struggled all his life to prevail, first with his brother Esau and then, with his uncle Laban; but as he was about to reenter the land of Canaan, “he was shown that it was with God that he must ‘wrestle'” (note on Genesis 32:24, KJSB). It was at that time that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28), which means “he struggles with God” (note on Genesis 32:28, KJSB).
The Greek word paliggenesia (pal-ing-ghen-es-ee’-ah) which means “(spiritual) rebirth” (G3824) is translated as the new world in Matthew 19:28-30 where it states:
“Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Paliggenesia is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as regeneration and refers to “that free act of God’s mercy and power by which He removes the sinner from the kingdom of darkness and places him in the kingdom of light; it is that act by which God brings him from death to life. In the act itself (rather than the preparation for it), the recipient is passive, just as a child has nothing to do with his own birth” (G3824).
The Greek word paliggenesia is related to the word pale (pal’-ay) which means to wrestle and “is used figuratively in Ephesians 6:12, of the spiritual conflict engaged in by believers (G3823). Paul said that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It seems that the struggle that every believer engages in is first to overcome his or her own resistance to being saved by God and then, to overcome the attempts of the devil to undermine that decision. “The new birth and regeneration do not represent successive stages in spiritual experience, they refer to the same event but view it in different aspects” (G3824). Anakainosis (an-ak-ah’-ee-no-sis) means “‘a renewal’ and is used in Romans 12:2 ‘the renewing (of your mind).’ i.e. the adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon the life; and stresses the willing response on the part of the believer” (G342).
In his parable of the wedding feast, Jesus pointed out that there was more to the process of salvation that just accepting God’s invitation to enter his kingdom. The king who prepared the banquet for his son told his servants, “‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as your find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:8-14). The wedding garment that was required to be worn by every guest was likely symbolic of the regeneration that is expected to place when a person is born again. Regeneration is an outward manifestation of being chosen by God. Paul said that God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4) and that the purpose of salvation is to “unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).
The Greek word that is translated unite in Ephesians 1:10, can also be translated as “gather together as one” (KJV), but the primary focus of this word is to identify the main point or objective God had in mind when he decided to save the world. According to Jesus’ parable, the servants of the king “went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good” (Matthew 22:10). When the king came in to look at the guests, he didn’t evaluate them based on their character, but focused his attention on a man who wasn’t wearing a wedding garment (Matthew 22:11). The wedding garments that were worn by the guests unified the bad and the good and made them appear to belong together, but the man who wasn’t wearing a wedding garment didn’t fit in, he was actually an imposter like the weeds that were sown among the wheat by the landowner’s enemy while he was sleeping in Jesus’ parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:25). When the king discovered the man without a wedding garment, he asked him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12). The Greek word that is translated friend, hetairos (het-ah’-ee-ros) refers to a comrade or fellow clansman (G2083). Jesus used this word when he greeted Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane after he had been betrayed by him (Matthew 26:50). Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples and yet, he was never regenerated, he never adjusted his moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God (G342).
After he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, “Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come” (Genesis 49:1). Jacob spent the last moments of his life revealing how each of his twelve sons fit into God’s plan of salvation. The Hebrew word that is translated called, qara’ (kaw-raw’) refers to God’s election of Jacob’s twelve sons to become his chosen people. Jesus correlated the twelve tribes of Israel with his twelve disciples when he said, “Truly I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Jesus may or may not have intended Judas to be included in that promise, but it seems that Judas’ initial calling entitled him to special privileges that he may have forfeited by not conforming to God’s will. Jacob’s instruction to “gather yourselves together” meant that his sons were being addressed collectively and could be considered to be a single unit as when Jesus’ followers are referred to as “one body” (Ephesians 4:4). In that sense, Jacob was addressing not only his family, but also the nation of Israel and the course it would follow for the rest of its existence.
One of the most notable aspects of Jacob’s discourse was the messianic prophecy that was associated with his son Judah. He stated:
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be obedience of the peoples. Binding a foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.” (Genesis 49:8-11).
The King James Version of Genesis 49:10 states, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Shiloh is an epithet of the Messiah and indicated that when Jesus was born, a gathering of God’s people became possible. Therefore, the uniting of God’s people was contingent upon Jesus coming to save the world.
Paul talked about believers being one in Christ and said, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:11-16). The Greek term that is translated reconcile, apokatallasso (ap-ok-at-al-las’-so) is derived from the words apo (apo’) which signifies a reversal, “away (from something near)” (G575) and katallasso (kat-al-las’-so) which means “to change mutually” (G2644). Katallasso means “to change, exchange; hence of persons, to change from enmity to friendship, to reconcile. With regard to the relationship between God and man, reconciliation is what God accomplishes, exercising His grace toward sinful man on the ground of the death of Christ in propitiatory sacrifice under the judgment due to sin (2 Cor. 5:18-20). By reason of this men in their sinful condition and alienation from God are invited to be reconciled to Him; that is to say, to change their attitude, and accept the provision God has made, whereby their sins can be remitted and they themselves be justified in His sight in Christ.”
Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast illustrated God’s genuine desire to be reconciled to all of mankind by the king instructing his servants to “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find” (Matthew 22:9). The servants “gathered all whom they found, both bad and good” (Matthew 22:10). The designation of both bad and good being gathered together indicated that the guests were not all in the same state of regeneration when they came to the feast. Jesus pointed out that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14), suggesting that regeneration only occurs if a lost person is both called and chosen. After many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him, Jesus asked his twelve apostles, “Do you want to go away also?” (John 6:66-67). Peter answered that they had no where else to go for salvation and then, Jesus responded, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil” (John 6:70). Like the man who refused to put on a wedding garment before he entered the feast, Judas Iscariot wasn’t interested in accepting Jesus’ righteousness in place of his own. After Judas left the upper room to betray him, Jesus told the eleven apostles that remained, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 1516).
Jesus’ statement to his disciples suggests that being chosen by God is not enough to participate in his kingdom’s activities. The Greek word that is translated appointed, tithemi (tith’-ay-mee) is used by Paul in reference to his service in the ministry of the gospel (G5087). Paul said, “I thank him who has given me strength in Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13). Paul stated in his second letter to the Thessalonians, “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Paul indicated that we are saved through sanctification and belief in the truth. The Greek word Paul used that is translated sanctification, hagiasmos (hag-ee-as-mos’) is properly translated as “purification, i.e. (the state) purity” (G38). “Hagiasmos signifies separation to God and the resultant state…Sanctification is thus the state predetermined by God for believers, into which in Grace He calls them, and in which they begin their Christian course and so pursue it.” The only way this can happen is for a person to believe in the truth of the gospel “that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).