In previous articles I have explored the idea that God Does Not Send People to Hell and that God’s Invitation is made to everyone to open the door at which He knocks. Not everyone, however, will enter in. God gives us a real choice, and our fate rests on that choice.
God desires that we all enter in, but whether we do enter in is up to us. We can chose to reject the invitation, or simply fail to respond, and God will let us go. That is because God is love, and love does not coerce.
God’s invitation is compared to the parable told by Jesus of the great banquet. In that parable, a man sent out invitations, but the people he invited were too busy to come. So he sent invitations out to the people in the streets and alleys and country roads and filled up the banquet table with all who were willing to come.
The story may seem puzzling on the surface. Why didn’t people just accept the invitation? If you knew God was inviting you to a banquet, wouldn’t you go? It’s a fair question, but life isn’t so simple. We instinctively know that there is a catch. The door into which we are invited to enter is a narrow one. Jesus acknowledged as much.
We reviewed the parable of the great banquet from Luke in the last article. Matthew records a similar parable:
“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. 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.”’ 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. Then he said to 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 you 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.’ ”
In Matthew’s version, the invited guests didn’t just ignore the invitation; some of them treated the king’s servants badly. They even killed some of the king’s servants.
Jesus was talking to Jewish religious leaders at the time. The history of the Jewish people was the obvious context. That history is checkered at best, and many of God’s prophets were ignored by His people, and and some of those prophet were killed.
They Jewish people didn’t want to listen. They wanted to do their own thing. They wanted to be like the nations around them. They adopted those nations’ attitudes and worshipped those nations’ gods.
There is application in these stories for us as well. And the way the servants were treated by the invited guests is only one aspect of this parable that is “disturbing”. Of far greater concern for us is how the king responds. He sent his troops to destroy the ungrateful guests, murdering them and burning their city!
If we are to view ourselves as the invited guests, the story is far from comfortable for us. Many have used examples like this parable to judge and reject God as He is revealed in the Bible, but do we dare ignore and reject God based on our understanding of the way things ought to be?
Why should He meet our expectations?! If God is truly God, should we expect Him to march to our drums? We may feel that God should play nice with the people who reject His invitation, but we aren’t God, and we don’t determine what He should and shouldn’t do.
Because these words were spoken by Jesus, we can’t reject is words without rejecting him. And, I submit that we would be foolish to do reject his words without trying to understand what Jesus is saying here.
This is a parable of course. We have to pay attention to the genre. Parables aren’t factual. They are story. They are allegorical, but they convey some essence of truth.
At a minimum, the truth conveyed in this parable is that we will experience negative results for our choice to ignore or reject God. It doesn’t matter either whether we reject God outright, dismiss Him, or simply ignore or fail to respond to Him in the end. The results are the same.
As we explored in previous articles, God doesn’t force us to accept Him. To reject Him or ignore Him or fail to respond to Him is our “choice”. When we die, that choice is locked in.
We don’t know exactly what the consequence of that choice will be, but the Bible is very clear that the result would be catastrophic for us. Some people believe the result is eternal, conscious torment. Others believe we are merely “separated” from God.
Since God us the source of life, and if God is love, any enmity or “separation” from Him would be hell. Being at odds with or cut off from the source of life and love is an unimaginably consequential fate, and that consequence is as bad (or worse) than we can imagine.
That is the point here. We don’t have to read into it any further than to understand that ignoring or rejecting God’s invitation is a serious matter, and it won’t end well for us.
But that isn’t all. As if the consequence of ignoring or rejecting God’s invitation is not enough to be concerned about, the parable doesn’t end there. It gets worse!
One man who did respond to the invitation wasn’t wearing a “wedding garment”, and he gets tossed out of the wedding! Not only that, but he is tossed “into the outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”! Hs fate is no better than the people who rejected, ignored or failed to respond to the invitation.
When a king sends an invitation to guests, the guests better read the invitation. The invitation comes with terms and conditions. Frankly, this is no different with invitations from people, though the consequences might be far less eventful. When the invitation is from God, it makes sense to pay attention!
Jesus says it this way:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
This is another way of saying that we need to pay attention to the terms and conditions of the invitation.
Significantly, this warning about entering in through the narrow gate (door) follows on the heels of a summary of Law and the Prophets:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
And that summary follows the invitation:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
And, here we are: full circle from where we started, hopefully the wiser for it. We don’t open the door and respond to God on our own terms. If we respond and open that door, we find a God who loves us, but He is not a tame lion. To enter in, we must do it on His terms. It’s a narrow door.
The narrow door is a door involves loving God above all things and loving others as ourselves. It involves following Jesus, which means taking up our own crosses – willingly. It means giving up ourselves, opening up our hearts to God and His Holy Spirit.
And lest we fail to understand that this means a real choice, a real change is the only proof of what we have done:
“Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”.
The wedding garment can’t be faked. We can only enter in authentically, absolutely, whole-heartedly – to the best of our abilities. Yes, our abilities may be limited, but the heart must be willing to embrace the change God desires to work in us.
The invitations are out. You have one in your hand. If you respond to God on His terms, you will be invited in to the feast God has prepared for you. It is a real choice with real (ultimate) consequences. You could not make a more consequential decision.
 Luke 22 16-24
 Matthew 22:2-13
 Matthew 7:13-14
 Matthew 7:12 (If you know your Bible, this is the second greatest commandment. The first is to love God with all your heart, your soul and your mind.)
 Matthew 7:7-8
 Matthew 7:16-19