The Parable of the Wedding Feast
The phrase “wedding garment” is mentioned in the Parable of the Wedding Feast:
“And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’ 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them [a]spitefully, and killed them.
7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, [b]take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’14 “For many are called, but few are chosen’” (Matthew 22:1-14).
The Wedding Garment
The special wedding garments were provided by the king himself. A feast filled with appropriately dressed guests would be an honor to the king. A person inappropriately dressed would bring dishonor upon the king and cause a shame to the happy occasion. The wedding garment represents the righteousness of Christ. Hence, to refuse the garment means refusal to power of God that qualifies people to become sons and daughters of the heavenly King (Philippians 4:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Psalm 18:32).
Like the guests in the parable, humans have nothing appropriate of their own to wear. Isaiah described it this way: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (ch. 64:6). They are received in the presence of the Holy God only when they get dressed in the pure righteousness of Jesus Christ (Revelation 3:18; 19:8).
The man without a wedding garment resembles the nominal believer who feels no need for a change in his life. He says, “‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’” (Revelation 3:17). He doesn’t know that he is in God’s eyes “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” This guest wanted only the privilege of eating at the feast. But he did not really desire the holiness of God. Thus, he had rejected the only thing – the wedding garment – that made him suitable to dine at the King’s table.
People are denied access to the kingdom of heaven because of their own unwise choices. Thus, it was with the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:11, 12). The man in the parable was able to enter the hall only because of the royal invitation, but he alone was the reason for his being kicked out. No person can save himself, but he can bring judgement on himself.
The Lord is able to “save … to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25), but He can’t force people to do so. For this reason, the Lord asks people: “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). God lays before men life and death and He pleads with them to choose life. But He does not cancel their choice of rejecting Him, nor does He protect them from its consequences.
The Outer Darkness
The “outer darkness” is the darkness of oblivion and of eternal separation from God. The wicked will finally get destroyed and annihilated by fire (Matthew 8:12; 13:42; 13:50). Jude calls this state the “blackest darkness” (ch. 1:13). Darkness is sign of sin (Romans 3:12) and death (Ecclesiastes 11:8). In this parable, the “outer darkness” was all the more noticeable in contrast with the bright light of the God’s wedding hall (1 John 1:5).
The “outer darkness” is a place of great sorrow, regret and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). Such will be the destiny of all who reject Christ (John 3:18, 36). Matthew records references when Jesus used the “gnashing of teeth” expression to describe the great sorrow of the lost in contrast with the gladness that might have been theirs (ch. 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). This same expression appears often in Jewish literature in descriptions of Gehenna (Matthew 5:22). Thus, the “outer Darkness” is a symbol representing the final destruction of the stubborn unrepentant sinners.
In His service,