A BANQUET AND A BONFIRE
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 18, 2015
1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. ’ 10 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. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? ’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
— Matthew 22:1-14, ESV
Sometimes we sit through a church service or listen to a sermon and wonder when it is going to end. The same feeling can overtake us when we are watching a movie, reading a book, even studying the Bible. When is this world going to end? God has not told me. He has not told me when, but He has told me how, right here in the Gospel of Matthew. The end of Jesus’ ministry on earth was not a crucifixion and resurrection. Rather, it will be a banquet and a bonfire. And you have a ticket with your name written on it to one, or the other.
Matthew, whose emphasis is on Jesus as the Messianic King of Kings, offers this royal parable. The image is a great wedding banquet thrown by the King for His son. It is an occasion for celebration and consummation. It is an end and it is a beginning. It is the beginning of a great new end-time. It is for the glory of the King and His son, and the good of all who are there.
But just who is there?
Those who attend this banquet will be those who honor the King’s word. The King sends forth His word through His servants (prophets, preachers, witnesses). They testify of the King’s invitation. Many ignore it, but a precious few find in it the good news that leads to abundant and eternal life.
Those who attend this banquet will be those who honor the King’s Son. I got my first job out of college because I had been nice to someone’s son. A parent loves those who love his or her child.
Those who attend this banquet will be those who honor the King. Those who through humility place the value of the word and the virtue of the son above all else. Those who bring nothing to the table but their need. Both good and bad can be humble and needy. Honor is offered when we bow before the King, acknowledge Him as Supreme, and ask for what only He can give. Then, we can be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Then, we can eat the eternal food of God. Then, the celebration begins. But not all will celebrate with the King.
At this present time, tragedy and triumph run in a continuous cycle. In the end-time to come, the two will run on very separate tracks. While one group is enjoying the eternal bliss of the banquet, a larger group will be suffering through the torment of a bonfire, otherwise known as Hell.
People who go to this end-time place will be those who on earth were too busy to listen to God. Too many today are more concerned with fields and business than with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are apathetic towards the gospel, the church, and the things of Christ.
People who live in this end-time place will be those who on earth were too proud or pleasure-seeking to submit to God’s word. Worldly people would much prefer to be rebels rather than subjects. They don’t make movies like “Servant without a Cause” or TV shows about “Friends” who abstain from premarital sex, serve God, and go to church.
People who live in this end-time place will be those who on earth were too broad-minded to accept the narrow way of God’s Son. The last image of a person being tossed into the bonfire of Hell is the most frightening. He thought he was going to the banquet. But he was wearing the soiled clothes of his own religious making, instead of the righteous robe of Christ which comes by grace through faith. The liberal preachers, TV talk show hosts, and pluralistic people who embrace a broad way of salvation outside of the exclusive blood of Christ will watch in horror on that day as they are escorted outside the safe parameters of God’s table and cast into outer, utter, eternal darkness.
They would not listen, they would not come, or they tried to enter in the wrong way. The banquet they will miss, and the bonfire will be their last.
The Beginning of the End
Yet you can almost hear the table being set and the candles being lit. The end is yet to begin, but surely it is near.
Do you have an invitation? You have had one for quite some time. The glory of creation is a sign pointing heavenward to God. The word of God and the witness of prophets, preachers, and followers of Christ is the fuel that fires your way. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the bus that brings you to the blessed banquet of God. You are invited to come. But will you be chosen to sit at the table?
Will you be chosen? God knows. He is sovereign, and He does the choosing. But you can know and you can choose, too, for though He is sovereign, He keeps out no one who wants to come to Him on His terms.
In high school I was invited to Florida State University, to home football games, even to Coach Bobby Bowden’s home. However, on national signing day, I was not offered a scholarship. I was invited, but not chosen. As a baseball player I was invited to a one-day camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates. When the draft came the next week, I was not picked. I was invited, but not chosen. My ability was not good enough.
If you are trusting in your own ability to go to Heaven, you will not be chosen. However, if you listen to the gospel and the word of God, plead for the grace and mercy of God, and follow in obedience to the Son of God, you are not trusting in ability but in God’s grace, and grace will lead you home.
Works wind up at the bonfire, but grace grants a place at God’s table. Bonfire or banquet? Many are invited, but few are chosen. Where will you be at the beginning of the end?
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org