“And He said to me, ‘Write: blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, 'These are the true sayings of God.' And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus; worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:9,10).

The "marriage of the Lamb" is not the same as the "marriage supper of the Lamb." In Jesus’ parable the servants wait for the master to return from the wedding, and then they eat together (amazingly, the master serves the servants! Luke 12: 35-40). The parallel to the wedding, the “receiving of the kingdom”, takes place in Heaven while the saints are still on earth being oppressed and persecuted (see Daniel 7:13,14, 15-27). The marriage supper comes later, after Christ returns, when “many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

This verse gives a clue as to who will be present at the feast. “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” represent those of God’s people throughout the ages who believed God’s promises and will be saved because of their faith, either in the Savior to come or the Savior who has come. “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness…Those who are of faith are sons of Abraham…So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-9).

Some have taught that only those who “believe in the name of Jesus” will be saved, quoting Peter’s words to the Jewish rulers concerning “the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised form the dead… Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12). But the fact that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be saved (not to mention the long list of faithful in Hebrews 11) shows that believing in the name of Jesus simply means believing in Jesus, whether one has heard His name or not. Since God is One, when the Father sends the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus it is the same as sending Jesus Himself. Although the Holy Spirit was sent with special power and a new ministry after the resurrection of Christ, He has been sent (in the name of Jesus) to all people at all times,[1] and many have responded to Him and will be present at the "marriage supper."

Besides the Biblical men and women of faith another class is mentioned—“many will come from east and west” (and the parallel passage in Luke 13:29 includes those from the north and the south). In other words, God has His people everywhere. In the Bible the east signifies such peoples as the Moabites, Edomites, and Midianites,[2] the west is the land of the Philistines, Tyre and Greece,[3] to the North are the Assyrians, Babylonians, Gog and Magog and the king of the North,[4] and to the south are Sodom, Egypt, the Amalekites, and the king of the South.[5] These are nations who have been the traditional enemies of God’s chosen people, outside of the promises and covenants, and yet God will consider where they were born, the circumstances of their lives, and how they have responded to the moving of His Spirit. “I will make mention of Rahab [Egypt] and Babylon to those who know Me; Behold, O Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia: This one was born there…The Lord will record, when He registers the peoples, ‘This one was born there” (Psalms 87:4,6). Indeed, the parable of the wedding feast indicates that it will be these from the “highways and hedges” who will fill the banquet hall rather than the more favored “who were invited.”[6]

“A certain king arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding, and they were not willing to come” (Matthew 22:2,3). The invitation may have involved being born into a Christian family or community, or being given a persuasive gospel invitation. But the response of many of these invited ones shows that the kingdom was not their priority—“They were not willing to come.” Some were involved in accumulating material goods and business, others were busy with social interactions and some, being offended, attacked the servants who delivered the invitation.[7] Their rejection disqualified them from being a part of the marriage supper—“None of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” (Luke 14:24). Next “the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind” were invited—those who had enough problems that they recognized their need. The Apostle Paul identified this dynamic—“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things…the base things…the things which are despised…that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

However, no matter where they were found, even from “the highways and hedges,” all had to pass inspection. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend,[8] how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11-14).

The requirement of the wedding garment brings the parable full circle back to Revelation 19—To her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Christ forgives us freely, having borne our sins on the cross, but He never leaves us as we are: “for this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Sanctification is not a matter of “trying to be good;” it is God’s initiative, His power and His grace which makes it possible. On the other hand, it does not happen automatically; we must allow Him to do this work, and this will feel like we are trying as hard as we possibly can to do what is right. This is expressed in such scriptural admonitions as “submit to God. Resist the devil” (James 4:7). “Strive to enter through the narrow gate” (Luke 13:24). “Be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). “Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him” (2 Peter 3:14). The balance is found in Paul’s admonition, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12,13). Jesus said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing,” but Paul insists, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.[9]

Those who have lived in darkness, without the church or God’s Word, immersed in false teaching, will not have known much of the will of God, but that which they have known through the Spirit will be required of them. And those who have lived in the light of God's Word and the church have an even higher standard. “That servant who knew his master’s will and did not prepare himself or do according to his will shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:47,48).

The “stripes” (blows or beatings) take place in this life as we endure the trials and tribulations of living in a world of sin. God allows trials as a small part of the school or discipline He has designed for each of His children. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” Through the influence of blessings, trials, and faith experiments we grow up in Christ “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Hebrews 12:7, Ephesians 4:13). This is the work God is doing in His saints, and our cooperation with His work opens the way for an experience we do not want ot miss—Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”

Continue to next section: 19:11-13 CHRIST ON A WHITE HORSE

[1] Many scriptures show that the Holy Spirit was very active in Old Testament times, for example, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalms 51:10,11). “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalms 139:7). “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;…I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statues" (Ezekiel 36:26,27). See also Genesis 6:3, Exodus 31:3, Numbers 11:24-29, 14:24, 24:2, 27:18, Deuteronomy 34:9, 1 Samuel 10:1-11, 16:11-13, 19:20-24, 2 Kings 2:9-15, 1 Chronicles 12:18, 2 Chronicles 15:1,2, 20:14-17, 24:20, Nehemiah 9;19,20,30, Job 33:3,4, Psalms 106:32,33, 143:10, Proverbs 1;22,23, 20:27, Isaiah 30:1, 44:1-5, 48;16, 59:21, 63:9-12, Ezekiel 3:24, 11:5, 39:28,29, Daniel 5:11, Micah 2:7, 3:8, Haggai 2:4,5, Zechariah 4:6, 7:12.

[2] Isaiah 11:14, Judges 6:3.

[3] Isaiah 11:14, Daniel 8:5,21.

[4] Jeremiah 25:9, Ezekiel 16:46, 30:2,14,15, Zephaniah 2:13, Daniel 11:40.

[5] Ezekiel 16:46, Genesis 13:1,3, Numbers 13:29, Daniel 11:40.

[6] Luke 14:15-24, Matthew 22:1-14.

[7] Luke 14:18-20, Matthew 22:3-6.

[8] The king still considered him to be His friend, even though he was disqualified to partake of the wedding supper!

[9] John 15:5, Philippians 4:13.