On April 21st I preached a sermon at The Eastside Vineyard Church titled, “Heaven, Hell & Predestination.” Since this is such an important topic I thought I’d take that sermon and turn it into a series of blogs. Here is part 3…
[Note: if you haven’t read the previous posts of this series yet, click here]
When it comes to the topic of heaven, hell, and predestination, the Parable of the Wedding Banquet found in Matthew 22 and Luke 14 is a great story to focus on. So I am going to start unpacking that story in this blog. Let’s dive in.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying… – Matthew 22:1 (NIV)
Let me stop there for a brief moment for what I call “Parables 101.” A parable is a type of story, a teaching technique that was common back then. Jewish Rabbis used it a lot and Jesus used parables too. Which makes sense. Because while Jesus was God in the flesh, He was also a Jewish Rabbi. A teacher.
A “parable” can be defined this way: an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
A parable is a story that included everyday things that were part of the culture back then. But they had a meaning that was much deeper. Jesus taught in parables because He wanted to challenge how you looked at the world and how you thought of yourself in a way that lowered your defenses.
So you’d hear Jesus telling a story about farming or planting seed or attending a wedding. Everyday things that people did in that culture. But then He would infuse a heavenly meaning into the story that would not see coming. Kind of like the ending of The Sixth Sense.
As I walk you through this parable, it is going to be about a king, a wedding banquet, guests, servants, and a son. Those are the earthly aspects of the story. But there is a heavenly meaning to the story as well. Now that we’re on the same page about parables, let’s go back to verse 1…
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” – Matthew 22:1-2 (NIV)
“Kingdom of heaven” is a Jewish way of saying “Kingdom of God.” So if you read the gospels and you come across the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God” it’s two ways of saying the same thing.
Here is a way to define the “Kingdom of God” – where things are exactly as God wants them to be.
The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God was such a massive topic, Jesus taught a bunch of parables about it. Each parable focused on a certain aspect of it.
So in this parable Jesus is going to teach one thing about the Kingdom of Heaven. One aspect of it. Not everything about it. And here is that one thing, that one aspect: God Invites Everyone To Be Part of His Kingdom on Earth and In Heaven. Granted, not everyone chooses to accept the invitation, but it is genuinely open to everyone.
One more thing…when Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God in the gospels, sometimes He is talking about the future. About what will happen after we die. About heaven. And sometimes He is talking about the present. About how we are to join Jesus’ movement on earth. To make what happens on earth line up with what happens in heaven.
This parable actually blends those two categories. It’s about the future and it’s about the present. It’s about heaven and it’s about earth.
So the “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”
Since this blog is already over 700 words let me stop here. Part 4 is coming soon. I intend to teach the bulk of the parable in my next blog so this series doesn’t turn into the equivalent of a 1,300 page novel like “War and Peace”! Between now and then, here’s your homework. Open up your Bibles and read the parable in Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:15-24. As you read it think about what it is saying about heaven, hell, and predestination.
Stay tuned for Part 4…
***Please join us this Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. I will be unpacking an often-quoted teaching of Jesus, a teaching that doesn’t mean what I bet you think it does. The story about paying the imperial tax to Caesar in Matthew 22:15-22. April 28. 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org***