Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

So you're born again... But will you walk with Jesus in white? Part 3

The white robes of the Fifth Seal martyrs (Rev 6:9-11)
We have been learning about what is necessary to win the glories of the ages to come. How important it is to remain stedfast in our confession and testimony! Our next passage for consideration views newly martyred saints out of the Great Tribulation.

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying,"How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

These martyrs “had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” They remained stedfast in their confession, even unto death! These, examples for each one of us, died for their faith and were therefore accordingly given white robes. Holding firm to our confession in the face of torture and deadly persecution is the most difficult work of all, yet is rewarded with the highest honors.

Will the examination of your works at the Judgment Seat of Christ merit such honor? There is still time to live a life worthy of reward! The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews has this advice for each of us in light of the many examples of faithful endurance presented to us in the scriptures (Christ being the ultimate exemplar):

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

A multitude of individuals coming out of the Great Tribulation arrayed in white robes (Rev 7:9-17)
Many Gentiles will be saved during the tribulation and the majority of these will die as martyrs. They will be the objects of special persecution by the world ruler. Much like the Jews of World War II, they will be hounded to death. Their stedfast resolve to not worship the beast will be a death sentence: “[The false prophet] was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev 13:15). The result will be multiplied thousands of martyrs (see John Walvoord, op. cit., p 146).

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hand… Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "

At first blush, and upon a careless reading, one may get the impression that the robe represents nothing other than the positional, eternal forgiveness of Christ that was made possible by His sacrificial death. Yet there are several, very strong reasons to dismiss this understanding as premature.

First, let it be noted that every single instance of the white robe thus far in the Revelation text is found couched in the language of works and merit. Remember, those at the church at Sardis had to be found worthy in order to walk with Jesus in white by shunning defilement and victorious endurance until the end. Also, those at the church of Laodicea were counseled to “buy” white garments. And the martyrs of the Fifth Seal, upon their deaths for the word of God and their stedfast testimony, were given white robes. We learn that this multitude, in the text being considered, consisting of many nations, were “clothed with white robes.” Why are we going to expect that they received theirs any different than has been determined for the rest?

Second, this group from the nations are martyrs themselves as the text clearly states. Make note that “these are the ones who come out of the great tribulation.” Their deaths were testimonies unto Christ, whereof they faithfully endured until the end. They overcame unto death, thus fulfilling the requirements to walk with Jesus in white.

Third, the scene at hand pictures these saints, whose testimony unto Christ was sealed with their blood, with palm branches in their hands. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states that palm branches are “connected with the idea of triumph and victory” (ISBE, Vol IV, pg 2236). It goes on to state how that Simon Maccabaeus entered the Akra at Jerusalem after its capture, “with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel” (1 Macc 13:51). These martyrs had victoriously endured their persecutions and trials. This now was a time of profound triumph, afforded by their faithful confession of Christ in the midst of great tribulation, where they have been honored by sharing in Christ’s glory!

Lastly, and most importantly, the martyrs themselves both “washed their robes” and “made them white.” This is something that they, themselves did! The Reformed traditions always try to protect God’s glory and sovereignty by noting that it is God alone who saves, thus it is only God who washes one unto forgiveness, and this apart from anything that the lost does (even exercising faith!). But in this context it is incontrovertibly shown that it is the martyrs themselves who do the washing and making! The theology of the Traditionalists should prevent them from perpetrating their tragic mistakes with regard to the ‘garment’ texts. But it doesn’t.

Obviously this type of literary construction (where the martyrs are working in cooperation and fellowship with Jesus) is to be distinguished and contrasted with verses such as this one found elsewhere in Revelation: “[Jesus] loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev 1:5). The distinctions here are easily noticed by the careful reader of Revelation. On the one hand Jesus “washed us from our sins in His own blood.” This was His action alone that He alone receives the glory for. Yet on the other hand the martyrs shed their blood by remaining stedfast in their confession and were found arrayed in white garments which they, themselves had “washed” and “made” white in the blood of the Lamb. And for such deeds as these they are worthy of glory!

Since we have ruled out the idea that these martyrs are dressed in white solely because of the salvation they received as an absolutely free gift, we must grapple with what the text does mean. As in the other instances, we must consider the garments as the expression and culmination of the martyrs’ preparation for glory while here on earth. With that firmly in mind we see that their Christian practice that capacitated them for the superlative glories in the kingdom evidenced itself in participation in the sufferings of Christ (which the blood of the Lamb represents) that they shared in. By faithfully enduring persecution for their confession and dying for Christ they actively kept themselves undefiled, overcoming in victorious perseverance. They thus prepared to share in the glory of Christ by first sharing in His sufferings.

Such an idea as this is not foreign to the text of scripture. For example Paul states:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God; and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom 8:16-17)

By mere virtue of the fact that one is a child of God (simply by believing in the name of Jesus, cf. Jn 1:12) he is an heir of God. But being a joint heir, or co-heir with Christ in the coming kingdom is conditioned on suffering with Him. Co-heirship is contingent on co-suffering with Christ so that we may be co-glorified! For Jesus, there was no crown without the cross (see Lk 24:26; Heb 12:2). This is the same for those who are to be His companions, those who partake of His glory. Unless one suffers with Christ, he will not be glorified with Him. Peter also states:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Pt 4:12-13)

To endure in one’s faithful confession of Jesus Christ in the midst of persecutions and trials is to share in Christ’s sufferings, where the reward for doing so is being “glad with exceeding joy.” Remember in the parable of the talents that the two servants who maximized the potential which was given to them by increasing the money allotted to them 100% were blessed by entering “into the joy of [their] lord” (Matt 25:21, 23). These servants were allowed to participate in the peculiar joy belonging to their lord. This is the same as the parable of the Wedding Feast. The joy is that particular joy of Christ, and unless one is prepared, he will not be privileged to share in it. Lastly we are met again with the words of Paul:

… I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ… that I may know Him… and the fellowship [or sharing] of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the [out]-resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me… I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:7-14)

Paul wished to participate in the sufferings of Christ, conforming his life to Christ’s obedience wherein He died on the cross, so that he would, by any means that he could manage within the limitations of his body, attain to the out-resurrection (Gk: eksanastasis) from the dead. Paul, along with anyone else who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, already knew that he would be resurrected unto life (see Jn 11:25-26). Everyone who simply believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be resurrected (Gk: anastasis). But only those who persevere suffering with Christ will attain to the out-resurrection (Gk: eksanastasis) from the dead. Re-read God’s gallery of heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. Notice that the characters in this passage faithfully work their deeds of righteousness with the superlative rewards of glory in the forefronts of their mind. To illustrate what Paul desired (the out-resurrection from among the dead), consider Hebrews 11:35b: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” Indeed, Paul suffered all things, sharing in Christ’s sufferings and death, so that he might obtain a better resurrection, the “out-resurrection.”

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

Are you willing to suffer affliction, esteeming the reproach of Christ, for the purpose of being found worthy of glory in the coming kingdom? Brothers, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility” (Col 2:18). The minimalization of the great incentive of rewards, wherein its motivations are essentially neutered by all strains of Lordship Salvation advocates, will lull those thereby decieved into slothful complacency. It is nothing but false humility that disobeys Christ's command to store up treasures in heaven.

Joseph Dillow sums it up best: In the Calvinistic Lordship “view, all who are Christians will be rewarded, and some more than others. Thus, they have created a version of Christianity where complete commitment is optional and not necessary. All that can be lost is a higher degree of blessedness, but all will be blessed. Could it be that this happy ending has lulled many into thinking they can continue their lukewarmness with no eternal consequences to pay?” (The Reign of the Servant Kings, pg 23).

(to be continued...)

Monday, December 10, 2007

So you're born again... But will you walk with Jesus in white? Part 2

In our first installment we saw how easily the consistent Free Grace position fits the parabolic stucture of the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14). We also saw the superiority of such an interpretation, as it alone fits the data the best. Part two of this series seeks to corroborate the idea there are significant rewards to be won by preparation in this life, and great loss to be suffered in failure to do such. Will you walk with Jesus in white?

The Church of Sardis and the prospect of the white garment (Rev 3:4-5)
In the parable of the Wedding Feast, we have given the interpretation of the wedding garment as thus: “the preparation for conditional, superlative eternal glories consisting of a faithful and consecrated life, stedfast until the end.” Such an idea is found on the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ in His address to the church in Sardis.

You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

We do not have here a picture of the free gift of eternal life and righteousness bestowed upon the Christian. Those in the church of Sardis have the potential to “walk with” Jesus (expressing intimate fellowship) clothed in “white garments” if they fulfill the conditions of “not defil[ing] their garments,” being victorious in their lives through works (“He who overcomes”: Gk = ‘nike,’ the victorious one), and being “worthy.” Such is not the language of imputed righteousness! It takes the hard works of keeping oneself unspotted, overcoming sin and evil, and exercising oneself unto rewardable integrity until the end in order to merit this superlative reward of being clothed in white and walking with Jesus.

Notice that the one who fulfills the conditions listed here will also have his name confessed before the Father and the holy angels. Of course, this is a tremendous reward! To be honored and receive glory before the Father and His angelic ministers by the Lord Jesus Christ! Such hearkens back to Jesus’ statements when He was on earth: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32-33). So many people understand these verses to mean that confessing Jesus before men is a condition for eternal salvation. But such are in grievous error! To proclaim this is to add works to the requirements for eternal life, thus fatally marring the saving message of Christ. Standing up for Christ and confessing His name can be a hard work. Hostilities often ensue with one’s identification with Jesus. But to those who endure such in a faithful confession come honor and glory in the presence of God the Father and His angels.

Corroboration for such an interpretation as this is found in the words of Paul to Timothy: “If we endure [in our confession of Christ] we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him [by failing to identify with Him and confess Him], He also will deny us [in this context, reigning with Him]” (2 Tim 2:12). These two conditional clauses are found in a chiastic literary structure, in which they are parallel to each other. On one hand, the Christian who confesses Jesus Christ will be honored and co-glorified with Christ. On the other, the Christian who denies Christ, by failing to identify with Him in a faithful confession, will be denied such privilege.

Thus, in the admonition of Jesus Christ to the church in Sardis, we see that the privilege of walking with Christ in intimacy, at a future time in His kingdom, is dependent upon preparing oneself for such, illustrated by an unsoiled, bright white garment, worn by virtue of the fact that one is an overcoming, and worthy Christian! Yet this is not the extent of this vital thread of revelatory material permeating John’s Apocalypse.

Admonition to the church in Laodicea to buy white garments (Rev 3:18)
Throughout my Christian years I have often heard that the man without a wedding gown in the parable of the Wedding Feast lacked the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is parabolically identified for us as the garment itself. But is that the best interpretation, or is it merely the one that fits our theology best, doing the least damage to it? It is the contention of this paper that the latter is the case.

Continuing on in our excursion through the book of Revelation, we touch down on Jesus Christ’s admonition to the lukewarm church in Laodicea. Thinking that they were rich, this church was actually “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17). Jesus’ advice for them was given in the following manner:

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

Whatever it means to “buy” from Jesus “white garments,” one thing can be certainly said: this language does not (and indeed cannot!) denote the free gift of eternal life that brings complete judicial justification and imputed righteousness. The answer to their lukewarm condition is to do works. The purchase price for the white garment has already been discussed above: being “worthy” of it by keeping from defilement and succeeding in victory over our spiritual enemies. In order to walk with Jesus in white, one must prepare for that honor, being capacitated for such by faithful endurance until death or rapture.

One cannot help but note the promise of Jesus Christ to the born again members of the church of Laodicea. (Are they saved? Of course. Jesus’ exhortation to them was not, “get saved” but, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.) “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:21). The one who overcomes will “walk with” Jesus in “white” and “sit with” Him on His throne. Make note of the fact; thus far, that the language we are taking consideration of is that of merit and not of gift or imputation.

The twenty-four elders wearing victory wreaths (Gk: stephanos) and clothed in white robes (Rev 4:4)
As most know, the book of Revelation can be separated into three parts: 1) the things which John had seen, 2) the things which are, and 3) the things which will take place after this (Rev 1:19). At the beginning of the last section the readers become privy to a great heavenly scene. It is none other than the throne room of God. Round God’s throne are twenty-four other thrones, at which sat twenty-four elders (Rev 4:1-4). The text says:

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.

Who are these twenty-four elders? John Walvoord states, “Only the church which is raptured before chapter 4 is properly complete in heaven and eligible for reward at the judgment seat of Christ” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ p 106). As Rev 4:1 states, this begins the section of those things which are to come. They are not angels, as their song certainly shows in 5:9, “… You… have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (I am aware of the textual problem here. This is the Majority Text reading, which I always favor. But other factors corroborate this reading as we shall see).

This scene in heaven occurs in the future from the perspective of John’s writings. They occur subsequent to his time and prior to the Great Tribulation narratives which are to follow. Such considerations narrow the identity of these elders down to a representative collection of church age overcomers who have been raptured and rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

These elders are arrayed in the manner of those who overcome in their Christian testimonies until the end. They are clothed in white robes, which we have already determined are only granted to those who by the testimony of their lives are found worthy of such. It is by triumphant, victorious endurance in their confession for Christ that such honor is won. Furthermore, they are pictured wearing victory crowns (Gk: stephanos). This is indeed the crown that Paul himself strove for and should be a focus of our every endeavor:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown [Gk: stephanos]. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)

Paul was under no illusion that he indeed would attain to this glory. Therefore, he exercised unto godliness, strictly disciplining himself so as not to forfeit the prize. Lastly, we note that these elders sat on thrones. The privilege to such has already been seen to be conditioned on the overcoming life that Paul sought to develop in himself and encourage in the church (cf 1 Cor 9-24-27 with Rev 3:21).

In Rev 4:4, the passage under consideration, we fast forward to the glory of the reigning servant kings who won their glory by participating in the sufferings of Christ. Reader, what is keeping you from aspiring to such?

(to be continued)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

So you're born again... But will you walk with Jesus in white? Part 1

On every page of the New Testament you will find scriptures pertaining to the doctrine of rewards. It is therefore to be an important consideration in biblical theology and practical Christian experience! This doctrine cannot be overemphasized. It is the lost doctrine. There is no greater motivation unto godliness than the twin truths of rewards and accountability. God knows how to command our affections. He lays out before the Christian the prospects of intimate companionship with Jesus Christ in the ages to come, sharing the inheritance of the kingdom, and being co-glorified with Him who merited His particular messianic glory by obedience to the death on a cross. God knows that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21; Lk 12:34). God knows that a heart set on becoming a partaker of the superlative joys and bliss of the coming ages, won by Jesus Christ, and shared by those who are worthy, will pursue sanctification, and hold its confession stedfast and firm until the end. Such activities bring God glory.

When was the last time you saw Lordship Calvinists and Lordship Arminians discussing the great wealth of revelatory material relating to this grand topic? I personally have never read a treatise on rewards by anyone who is, in anyway, Lordship in leaning. Furthermore, there is a great dearth of understanding of the privileges, honors, and glories to be won by faithful, overcoming Christians, and the dire possibility of great punitive loss due to forfeiture at Christ’s second advent by some who consider themselves Free Grace (this is in part due to the inconsistency of their Free Grace position and in part due to their soft-Lordship tendencies). There is a broad and widespread ingnorance of this doctrine, the greatest of all inducements unto personal consecration.

Lordship Salvation handcuffs the Scriptures
Why are Lordship advocates completely missing the mark when it comes to expounding the prospect of the wealth to be won in the coming age and the scriptures warning of severe consequences for failure? Simply put, it is their faulty soteriology holding the Word of God prisoner. Throughout the New Testament we find multitudes of conditional structures guaranteeing various glories, honors, and priviledges to Christians upon fulfilling their provisions, and stipulating great loss for disobedience and unfaithfulness, but they completely gloss over them! Here is where the problem lies for these companion theologies:

Lordship Arminians (LA) consider the rewards of these passages as eternal salvation itself and the failure to fulfill the conditions as tantamount to loss of eternal life and sure damnation. Lordship Calvinists (LC) consider the rewards of these passages as eternal salvation as well, but for them, to attain these prizes one must be a true and genuine believer; failure only manifests the reprobate who had a temporary and spurious faith, not the faith of the elect. Therefore, those chosen by God for salvation are guaranteed to fulfill the provisions of these conditional statements. They are relentlessly and inevitably disposed to endure until the end. Make note that in both cases (LA and LC), failure means hell.

The errors of interpreting the warning passages by the LA and the LC, in a sense, compliment each other. They are both half right and half wrong, but in different parts. The LA correctly identify the intended recipients of these warnings as true Christians, but incorrectly identify the consequence as loss of salvation. The LC correctly understand that the true Christian cannot lose eternal life, but incorrectly comprehend the intended audience, supposing the warnings are only for professors who indeed are not possessors.

When one finds a consistent line of exposition and interpretation that allows him to take the words of Scripture at their face value, in other words, for what they literally say, without the inclusion of secondary assumptions and gratuitous importation, he has found exegetical gold. Such is the Eureka hermeneutics of consistent Free Grace theology. It is only the Free Grace advocate who sees that there are real prospects to be won or lost in the kingdom of the coming ages. They alone see salvation as free and rewards as costly. They alone perceive the sober realities of punitive loss at the coming of Christ. They alone consistently engage the texts with their prima facie reading.

It is a fairly sure sign that a line of exposition is correct when it enables numerous passages to be taken in the simple natural meaning of the terms employed. So long as we cannot accept the obvious sense of words and phrases, but must suppose them to mean something other than they say, we do well to question whether we yet understand them. When Keplar found that the theory of the elliptical orbits of the planets fitted all the known facts of their movements, he felt positive that he had reached the truth upon that matter. The same kind of assurance is gained when a given exposition of Scripture enables numerous and hitherto difficult passages to be understood in their plainest sense, and causes them to give an accordant teaching. (G. H. Lang, Firstborn Sons: Their Rights and Risks, p 117, italics his)

The interpretations of the LC and LA often must argue against the “simple natural meaning of the terms employed” in the scriptures. They will continually render passages meaningless by their ad hoc explanations of them which rely heavily on the inclusion of secondary assumptions not found in the texts. Any number of their doctrines could be falsified by accepting “the obvious sense of [the] words and phrases” of those passages which give their theologies the most trouble.

Lordship Salvation and those with certain Lordship tendencies have handcuffed the Scriptures! So long as the Bible, which is the Word of God, is not allowed to speak for itself, but rather must be understood in the light of the unquestioned traditional and centuries old interpretations handed down through the generations, the prospects for the systematization of a faithful and consistent biblical theology are sadly rendered unattainable.

Lordship theology has taken captive two of the most powerful incentives to godliness: the prospect of vast and sundry rewards and the possiblity of great failure with its grave consequences.

Man without a wedding gown (Matthew 22:1-14)
When a man is given eternal life, he is born into privilege. As the firstborn in the Semitic culture, so is the child of God: possessing of great inheritance possiblity. But as displayed in both Esau and Reuben, these rights can be forfeited by neglect and unfaithfulness. The firstborn sons were trained and capacitated for the responsibilities and privileges of heirship. Their childhood was a time of training for those things to come. In the absence of successful preparation or in the aftermath of great failure the position and rights would be lost.

When one is born into the family of God, he is transported into a new relationship of steward/servant with Christ as His Lord, as well as becoming the child of God. Coming with such responsibility is the high calling to co-glory with Christ – the glory of which He won by faithfully enduring the cross (see Phil 2:8-9; Heb 12:2), and of which He desires to share with His companions (Heb 3:14).

The parable of the Wedding Feast is a sober illustration of the rejection of Christ by the Jewish nation, the destruction of Jerusalem, the temporal and eternal destruction of those who reject the offer of entrance and inheritance in the kingdom, and the tragic loss of the superlative joys of co-glorification with Jesus Christ by a Christian who did not prepare himself for that privilege.

Correspondences of parabolic elements to spiritual realities:
King — God
Son — Jesus
Banquet — intimate, inner fellowship of Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God and the joys associated with it; made up of the companions of Jesus in the ruling aristocracy
Invited guests — the Jewish nation
Servants of the King — prophets, apostles, and evangelists
The city — Jerusalem
Those found in the highways — Gentile nations
Invitation — the upward call unto the prize of co-heirship and co-glory with Christ
King’s gaze at the wedding guests — The Bema; The Judment Seat of Christ
Wedding Garment — the preparation for conditional, superlative eternal glories consisting of a faithful and consecrated life, stedfast until the end
Bound hand and foot — restriction from the prerogatives and glory of co-ruling with Christ, and from the intimacy of Christ’s band of co-heirs
Outer Darkness, or better translated, “the darkness outside,” in other words outside the well lit-banqueting hall, still on the estate of the King — Removed from the joys and glories associated with those who are worthy of such by merit
Weeping and gnashing of teeth — An Oriental expression denoting sorrow (in this case, over lost privilege), remorse (over wasted opportunity), and inner anguish over such loss.

Interpretive Synopsis
God has joy prepared for the Son, likened to a lavish wedding banquet. In Him, God was fully pleased. Jesus, the Son, desires to share this glory with companions, as a bridegroom wishes to share the joy of his wedding with his guests. Israel was God’s chosen nation where the invitation to such joy and glory was first proclaimed by the prophets. These messengers were spitefully treated and many were put to death. In God’s wrath, Jerusalem and around one million of its Jewish inhabitants were destroyed in 70 A.D. by Roman armies. Starting through Peter and continuing through Paul this invitation to the glories of co-heirship with Christ has been preached to the Gentile nations. From such, a wide array of people (“both good and bad”) respond positively to the invitation, not in RSVP only, but fully prepared for privilege and glory at Christ’s coming. Singled out for our consideration is one who responded affirmatively to the call to glory with Christ yet arrived before Him unprepared. Such is restricted from the privileges of Christ’s intimate companions, and from co-ruling authorities and glory with Christ. The same, for a short while, will feel the sting of his bitter loss. Yet as we know with all grief cycles, there is a normal duration for such. Eventually all tears will be wiped away by God (Rev 21:4).

What is interesting in this picture is when the man without a wedding garment is confronted with his lack of preparation for the joy of this feast that he is speechless. This is quite expected. For when the unfaithful Christian, now sinless, is met with the judgment for his actions, he will experience the shame of knowing that such consequence is commensurate with his infidelity (he has no sin nature to rationalize or justify his past behaviors). He will not try to talk his way out of it, for he knows all too well that his life merited such. Without so much as a word, this man will “receive the things done in [his] body” which were “bad” (2 Cor 5:10).

But contrast this with the ‘Christian’ who didn’t enter through the narrow gate (Jesus alone) and didn’t do the will of the Father (believe in Jesus), but rather trusted in his works (Matt 7:22). This one will be anything but speechless: “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” Do you feel the sincere despair in this man’s voice? He is not some conscious charlatan trying to dupe Jesus. He is all too serious. This one thus prevented from kingdom entrance is all too vocal while the Christian restricted from the superlative glories and honors of being co-heir with Christ has been silenced – much in the same way that someone is who has been confronted with his wrongdoing wherein he has hurt a loved one.

Is there any corroborating evidence to this interpretation? Can it be maintained that the wedding garment in this parable corresponds to the preparations that one takes in this life for the contingent glories of the next? The realities contained in the spiritual truth of this parable concern Christ’s kingdom which He will institute upon His second advent. We may expect to find some things worth noting in the book of Revelation. And, as a matter of fact, we do. But you will have to wait a couple of days to see them.

(to be continued....)