Sunday, December 27, 2015

Eternity in Heaven -- You are Invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb

Weddings are a time of celebration and happiness. Certainly, the Bride and Groom are happy, and usually the invited guests are very happy for the couple as well. But, most weddings take a great deal of preparation for the celebration to come about in the way the couple has dreamed that it would. There is also a great deal of preparation for the celebration of the Wedding Supper or Wedding Feast of the Lamb in our coming Eternity with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. But, the first preparation that needs to be made for any wedding and wedding supper, though, is the preparation of the guest list for the celebration.

For many couples, it takes quite some time to plan the wedding. The reason that it takes so much time to plan the wedding is because not only does the couple want the wedding to be extra special for them, but they also want the event to be remembered by all. So, the planning starts first with determining the number of guests that they will invite. God is planning a big wedding, too, for the church which is the bride and for Jesus Christ Who is the bridegroom. But, Christ’s and His bride’s wedding cannot take place until all the guests have been invited and until all those who are willing to accept the Gospel invitation have R.S.V.P’d to the invitation.

Most couples spend a great deal of time determining who they will invite to their wedding. There is one major difference, however, between the number of guests that will be invited to a bride and groom’s wedding and wedding supper here on earth and the number of guests that will be invited to the Heavenly wedding or the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Couples here on earth invite guests that they know; guests that they are related to, guests that are their friends and acquaintances, or guests that are in their work environments. But the ultimate number of invited guests always depends on where the wedding will be held, where the reception or wedding supper will be held and the amount of money that the couple plans to or can afford to spend on the wedding and wedding supper. In Heaven, though, God is not limited by space or money. Moreover, God loves us all so much that He invites everyone that He has created to come to Christ’s incredible wedding and wedding supper. However, there is just one stipulation. All guests must accept God’s invitation to Salvation thus having their names written in the Book of Life.

Jesus said, “All those who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are mine.”  -- (Revelation 3: 5. NLT).  Your name, however, is only written in the Book of Life when you believe on Christ as the risen Son of God and when you repent of your sins and ask Christ to come into your life. God has issued an invitation to everyone, but unfortunately not everyone will accept His invitation. Therefore, those who refuse God’s invitation will not be at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. They will not spend Eternity in Heaven, but will instead spend Eternity in Hell. On the other hand, those who refuse to accept a couple's invitation to their wedding and wedding supper, will just miss out on seeing a beautiful wedding and some good food and fun. However, those who refuse to accept God's invitation for Salvation and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb will miss out on a loving Eternity spent with God in Heaven.

Only after the bride and groom know how many guests they will be able to invite, will the couple then choose the final wedding location, which will accommodate all their guests. Usually they will choose a wedding location that will signify the couple’s love. For most Christian couples the location they choose will be a church, because they want their love and their union to be blessed by God. The church location will also signify to their guests that the couple plans to put God first in their lives.

Most Christian couples will usually choose their home church building for their wedding, if it is large enough to accommodate the number of guests they are inviting. For, the couple may not only want to make a commitment to each other before God in the building where they have worshiped God, but this home church building may also be the place where they will come together to worship the Lord on a weekly basis as well. The Scriptures say, “Come let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For, He is our God and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His Hand. …– (Psalm 95: 6, 7. NASV).  Their church home and their church family will provide support, structure, and godly teaching that they can receive from fellow Christians, even as the couple spends time there worshiping the Lord.

For Christians, the wedding and the beautiful clothing along with all the church decorations is just another opportunity to worship God by honoring God’s institution of marriage. In fact, the psalmist said, “Worship the Lord in holy attire.– (Psalm 96: 9. NASV). Therefore, the planning of the wedding and the determination of what they will wear to their wedding takes much of the couple’s time and consideration. On this occasion the couple and the guests have an opportunity to honor God with special clothing that befits a godly wedding.

To signify the specialness of the occasion and the importance of standing up before God and making a lifetime commitment or promise to each other, a Christian bride and groom will usually choose to wear regal clothes (as in a bridal gown and tuxedo) or their most beautiful clothes. The guests attending the wedding will usually want to honor the bride and groom by also putting their best foot forward and by wearing a special suit or outfit for the occasion. Getting ready for Christ’s return and the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” is no different. For Christ’s church, i.e. Christ’s Bride, will be married to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and there will be a beautiful banquet or the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb” for all to attend. (Similar to our own wedding banquets honoring the newly married couple.). But, I am getting ahead of myself.

How does clothing and weddings fit into our previous discussions on Eternity in Heaven? Well, I have been discussing with you the Scriptures and the assurances that God has given us about Eternity in Heaven. We have already discussed six assurances along with the Scriptures that back up those assurances that Salvation brings with it a future beautiful Eternity to be spent in Heaven with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. This week, I want to talk to you about assurance number seven which has to do with the wedding of the bride, i.e. the church, to Jesus Christ, our bridegroom. Assurance number seven also has to do with becoming acceptable for eternal life with Christ. Metaphorically speaking, clothing will be important to our becoming acceptable for the most important wedding in our lives and with this clothing comes the seventh assurance. So, let’s find out about how we can become acceptable for and assured of our eternal life with Christ.

Assurance Number Seven about Eternity with God

Like the previous assurances about Eternity in Heaven, assurance number seven comes from the Holy Scriptures given to us by God through the Holy Spirit Who directed men to write down God’s Words. Assurance number seven comes from Jesus Christ’s own words within the Gospel of Matthew as well as in the book of Revelation. Looking at these Scriptures we find that Christ again assures us that those who believe on Him as the risen Son of God will have a future Eternity in Heaven.

Many times Jesus Christ used parables or stories that had deeper meanings, other than the obvious story that He was telling, in order to explain hard to understand Truths like Salvation, Heaven, and Eternity to the crowds. In the secular world today many of us remember growing up on Aesop’s fables, which were short stories that had a moral or lesson to be learned. But long before Aesop, the Hebrews used short stories, i.e. parables, to present a truth that would otherwise be hard for people to understand. Jesus Christ also used many parables to present the Truth within the stories He told. These parables usually were stories that the people could relate to from within their culture and within their daily life. In fact, many of Christ’s messages about Salvation were often framed within His parables as was much of the information about Eternity in Heaven or Eternity in Hell. These parables gave the people a chance to understand the deeper meaning behind the simple story told.

One of Christ’s parables was on the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”, which will take place in Heaven. This parable is a little longer than some of the other parables that Christ told, because it has two parts to the story. I want us to take a closer look at this parable so that we can more fully understand assurance number seven about Eternity and the choice that we each have to make. First, though, I need to explain a few things about the culture of that day, so that you can understand the deeper meaning behind the parable. Because of their culture and customs, many of the people of Christ’s day would have easily understood the deeper meaning within the parable. Unfortunately, there would be others who could not figure out the deeper meaning without someone telling them. Such was the case with the parable on the Wedding Supper.

In order to understand this parable, we need to know a few things about the Middle Eastern culture. The first thing that we need to understand about the Middle Eastern culture is that when a person threw a banquet, two invitations were sent to the guests. The first invitation was sent to ask people to come to the banquet. The guests would need this first invitation so they would to be sure to set aside the time and make plans to attend. Like our R.S.V.P. today, the guests would need to accept the invitation so the one giving the banquet would know they were coming. Then, once the banquet was ready and prepared, a second invitation would be sent out to let the guests know that it was time to come to the banquet. Everyone in that culture knew that they would get two separate invitations to a banquet. The same was true of the wedding supper banquet.

We also need to understand that the feast or the wedding supper banquet was the culmination or finalization of the betrothing or marriage process in the Middle Eastern culture. After the couple was betrothed to each other, the couple remained separated from each other for a period of time. Although the couple was technically married, i.e. a piece of paper (marriage contract) or a handshake had occurred between their parents that essentially gave the two people to each other to be husband and wife, the marriage was not finalized until the groom later came back for his bride. Initially, there was a dowry given by the brides’ parents with the expectation that the groom would provide a good home for the bride. So, the groom would then spend time either building a home for his bride or building a room onto his parents’ home where the couple would have their own quarters within the family home. The groom would also plan a wedding banquet and then when everything was ready, he would go and get the bride and bring her back to his house with great fanfare and celebrating. The celebrating included the culminating wedding supper with several days of celebrating.

The next thing you need to understand about banquets, and the wedding banquet in particular, is that the wedding banquet was very important in Middle Eastern culture. It was a very special occasion, because an important commitment was being finalized between the bride and groom. So, the bridegroom, who prepared the banquet for his bride and all the guests, wanted to make sure that everyone was also dressed appropriately for the celebration. Therefore, it was customary for the bridegroom to give the wedding guests special clothes to wear to the banquet. Some people were rich and would have had beautiful clothes to wear, but other guests may not have had really good clothes to wear to the special banquet. So, it was customary for the bridegroom to give out special clothes for everyone to wear so that everyone would be dressed appropriately and no one would feel less than another at the celebration. The special clothes would also signify the importance of this event.

To participate in the wedding celebration, the guests all wore the clothes that were given to them. In fact, it would have been an insult to the bridegroom if someone refused to wear the clothes that the bridegroom had given them to wear. If someone did refuse to wear the clothes, not only would the host or bridegroom be insulted, but he and everyone else would think that the ungrateful guest was arrogant, thoughtless, and rude. Furthermore, the special clothing would also prevent uninvited guests from attending, because they would not have the proper clothes to wear and could be easily recognized.

Now that you know a little more about the importance of a wedding banquet within the Hebrew and Asian culture and the importance of the clothing worn to the banquet, let’s take a look closer at the two parts to this parable. This is the parable that Jesus told:

The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. Many guests were invited, and when the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify everyone that it was time to come. But they all refused! So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared, and choice meats have been cooked. Everything is ready. Hurry!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went about their business, one to his farm, another to his store. Others seized his messengers and treated them shamefully, even killing some of them.

Then the king became furious. He sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their city. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’

So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for the wedding. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ And the man had no reply. Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” – (Matthew 22:2-14. NLT).

In the first part of this parable of the Kingdom of Heaven, the king actually sent his messengers out three times to invite the guests to the wedding banquet for his Son. The first time was the original invitation, then the second invitation went out that the banquet was ready, but when no one came the king sent out his messengers to invite them a third time to ‘Hurry,’ because the banquet food was ready. He even tried to entice them by telling them about the choice meats that had been cooked for them. But still they refused to come to the banquet.

God wants all of His children to come to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, which is the wedding of Jesus Christ to the church, His bride, in Eternity. However, there will be many people who will reject the invitation. Furthermore, there will be many people who no matter how many times they are invited will continue to reject the invitation to the banquet. They will reject it, because they will not accept the gift of Salvation. They will refuse to believe on Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, or they will refuse to think about where they will spend Eternity. But Christ’s parable assures us that there is an Eternity in Hell for those who reject God’s invitation to Eternity in Heaven with Him.

Although in this parable the king only issued three invitations before he sent out his army to destroy those who refused to come to the wedding supper as well as the evil people who murdered His messengers, God continues to issue invitations to those who have not yet believed on His Son. God will never force anyone, though, to accept His Son, but God is good and loving wanting everyone to be saved. Unfortunately, Satan encourages people to live only for themselves and to not think about the future. Moreover, Satan encourages people like those who join ISIS to kill those who come to share the Gospel message and to give out the invitation to the banquet.

Throughout the centuries, Christians have been killed for their trust and belief in Christ as their Savior. But, God’s servants, i.e. “born-again” Christians, will continue to issue invitations to those who have yet to come to know Christ as their Savior, because that is what Christ has asked us to do. This parable of Christ’s on the wedding banquet assures us that there is both an Eternity in Heaven and an Eternity in Hell. We are also assured that we will all receive invitations to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb in Eternity. Will you R.S.V.P. to God and let Him know that you believe on His Son, Jesus Christ?

Unfortunately, there will be many people who will not accept the Christ’s invitations. Then there will be those who will act like they have accepted Christ's invitation, but in reality they are just trying to fit in with a particular group of people and are faking it. Perhaps, too, they think that they can fool God and pretend to be “Saved” just in case there is really a Heaven and Hell. But this parable, tells us that we cannot fool God. For when the king discovered the man without the special wedding clothes that the guests were supposed to wear, the king had his men bind up the man and “throw him into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Those who do not accept Christ’s invitation to “Wedding Supper of the Lamb” in Eternity will indeed find themselves in Hell.

Wearing the Clothes Christ has Given Us

In Eternity in Heaven there will be a continuous celebration of honoring and loving our Lord. As we have studied about the wonderful assurances that God has given to all who will believe on His Son, we have found that God’s Scriptures have assured us that we will not only have new glorified bodies but that we will have new clothes to wear to the banquet. Wow! God has thought of everything! Why are we not able to think of ways to share the knowledge of Eternity through Jesus Christ our Lord with those who are still lost? We should want everyone we encounter to be in the celebration of honoring and loving our Lord.

One way we can share the Gospel is through Active Relational Christian Mentoring. Please reach out to someone who needs to know Christ and then offer to mentor her in whatever area she needs help. Who knows? Maybe your kindness will produce the fruit of Salvation through the Holy Spirit, and someone else will be ready for Eternity with God. Her clothes for the banquet would be ready for her as soon as she accepted Christ’s gift of Salvation. But, to reach those who are lost, we have to be willing to actively mentor others in whatever area they need help. Then, as a Christian mentor we will be able to find opportunities to share the Gospel message.

Preparing Ourselves for the Wedding Banquet

The second part of Christ’s parable has to do with preparing ourselves for Heaven and the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb”. In fact, through the above parable Christ tells us how we are to prepare ourselves for Heaven. First, the wedding clothes in the parable symbolize the importance of and our need for righteousness in order to enter into God’s eternal Kingdom. But, there is only one way to enter into Heaven and one way to have a place at the banquet or “Wedding Supper of the Lamb”. That way is through the righteousness that Christ gives to every believer. Righteousness prepares us to be able to stand before God at the wedding supper and for all Eternity.

How do we become righteous, though, before God? Well, as you know God cannot look upon unrighteousness. But there is only one way that we can be made righteous and that is through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and then arose from the grave. Once we believe on Christ and are cleansed of all our sins through the blood of Christ, we are made righteous. In other words, Christ gives us the righteous pure white clothes that we will wear to the banquet with God. However, each person must choose to become righteous and wear the clothes that Christ as provided in order to go to the wedding supper or banquet, which is eternal life.

The prophet Isaiah wrote:
I am overwhelmed with the joy in the LORD my God! For, He has dressed me with the clothing of Salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness, …” 
-- (Isaiah 61: 10. NLT).

Only by accepting Christ’s Salvation will we have the clothing that we need to wear to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, which is in Eternity. In the book of Revelation, Christ speaks to the Apostle John about the seven churches. When He spoke about the church of Sardis, Christ said:

Yet even in Sardis there are some who have not soiled their garments with evil deeds. They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine.– (Revelation 3: 4, 5. NLT).

To those who stand firm in their faith Christ promises future honor and eternal life. Moreover, to be “clothed in white” is saying that they will be made pure. We will be set apart for God. Christians know that we will be set apart for God, because Christ tells us that our names will be written in the Book of Life. This book lists all the people who belong to God and who will spend Eternity in Heaven with Him. Standing firm in our faith, means that we acknowledge Christ here on earth. In fact, Christ tells us specifically what it means to us to be given Eternity.

And I assure you of this: If anyone acknowledges me publically here on earth, I, the Son of Man, will openly acknowledge that person in the presence of God’s angels. But if anyone denies me here on earth, I will deny that person before God’s angels.”  -- (Luke 12: 8, 9. NLT).

So, how do we acknowledge Christ here on earth?  Well, there are several ways to acknowledge Christ starting with sharing with others that we are indeed children of God’s. In other words, we are not to deny Christ nor should we hope that no one will find out that we are a Christian. We should be letting everyone know that we belong to Christ. We should also try to always speak up for what is right. Moreover, we should never to keep silent about our relationship with God. In other words, Christians should not want to blend into society to the point that we can’t be recognized as a Christian. Rather, we are to acknowledge Christ by not accepting society’s values over God’s values, morals and ethics. We can also acknowledge Christ by helping others, mentoring others, doing loving Christian things for those less fortunate and by generally loving others as we love ourselves. Furthermore, when we stand up for Truth and justice, we are acknowledging Christ. Finally, when we use our very life to become fruit producing Christians and to put doing for God above our own desires, we are acknowledging Christ.

By acknowledging Christ, we are preparing ourselves for the “Wedding Supper (Feast) of the Lamb”. Certainly, by praising and worshipping the Lord we are acknowledging Christ as our Lord and Savior, and we are preparing ourselves for Eternity in Heaven. Then when the culmination of human history arrives and when Christ returns to call home to Eternity those who have accepted God’s gift of Salvation and those who have acknowledged Christ with their life, we will be prepared for the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb”. Christ will have our righteous pure white wedding clothes waiting for us to wear to the banquet. Again the book of Revelation tells us in greater detail what this banquet will be like.

In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John records his vision of Christ and the end of time. It is in chapter nineteen of Revelation that John speaks about the banquet prepared for the bride. He says:

Then I heard again what sounded like a shout of a huge crowd, or the roar of mighty ocean waves, or the crash of loud thunder: ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice and honor Him. For, the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and His bride has prepared herself. She is permitted to wear the finest white linen.’ (Fine linen represents the good deeds done by the people of God).

And the angel said, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ And he added, ‘These are true words that come from God.’”
– (Revelation 19: 6-9. NLT).

This Wedding Supper is the banquet in Eternity in Heaven that represents the wedding of Jesus Christ, the bridegroom to His church. The church is made of Christ’s faithful believers. The brides clothing represents the good deeds of the believers. Through both the parable in the Gospel of Matthew and in the book of Revelation we have been given Assurance number seven that those who believe on Christ as their Lord and Savior will be invited to the greatest celebration of all Eternity. We are assured that our sins have been forgiven because we have on purest white. White stands for righteousness and the good deeds that Christians have done for the Lord and for others who needed help. Remember that Christ, the bridegroom, gives this special clothing to the banquet attendees. But we are responsible for preparing ourselves for the banquet. We have to first accept the invitation of Christ’s offered Salvation, though, in order to have our names written in the Book of Life and to come to the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb”. Furthermore, we are responsible for loving others and doing the good deeds that God has asked us to do. In other words, we have to represent Christ in everything that we do while we are awaiting our future Eternity in Heaven. Have you accepted Christ’s invitation? Are you preparing for the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” by serving God and others? You can do it! You can mentor others for God and you can be of service to God through different fruit producing paths.

If you haven’t asked Christ to forgive you of your sins and to come into your heart, don’t let another moment go by. Remember we are all just a heart-beat away from an Eternity in Hell or an Eternity in Heaven celebrating the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb”. I am personally inviting you to the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb.” So, I hope you take a moment and accept God’s most precious gift, the Salvation He is offering you through His resurrected Son, Jesus Christ and His invitation to Eternity. 

Today is the first day of the rest of your life! Today is the first day of your Eternal life. Where will you spend your Eternal life?

I pray that you have a blessed New Year living for the Lord!

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