Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 2, 1961
NUMBER 42, PAGE 8-9a

Entering The Kingdom

Joe Neil Clayton, Noble, Oklahoma

Proceeding on the assumption that the reader needs no instruction regarding the oneness of the Kingdom and the church, it is our desire to introduce a study of those parables of Christ which were designed to inform the disciples on the nature of the kingdom. These parables can be classified under four different subjects. The first, which shall be the topic of this article, is that of "Entering the Kingdom." Under this head would fall the parables of the Marriage Feast and of the Net. In the second article, we will consider the "Value of the Kingdom," as expressed by Christ in the parable of the Goodly Pearl and the Treasure in the Field. The third group of parables, The Mustard Seed, The Leaven, The Sower, and the Laborers in the Vineyard, demonstrate the principles of the "Growth of the Kingdom." Lastly, Christ covers the subject of "Inheriting the Kingdom" in the parables of the Ten Virgins, the Pounds, and the Talents.

In this variety of subjects, one finds a complete picture, in figure, of the nature of the church. This was the purpose behind such teaching, and the principles illustrated were no doubt retained in the memory of the Apostles by the aid of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26) after the ascension of Christ to his throne on high. The Apostles applied these principles in their complete instructions to the church. Therefore, we are justified in constantly perusing these informative parables. Through such a study, we are reminded of the infinite wisdom of the Father in both planning the church and in executing the plan.

Since the first business of the church is evangelization, it is appropriate now to consider first the subject of entering the Kingdom. In such a study, we should be made to realize, by the solemn obligation of entering, that the Kingdom itself is the most important institution on earth. To the man who accepts this fact about the church or Kingdom, God holds out the promise of eternal life.

Considering first the parable of the Marriage Feast (Matt. 22:2-14), we will learn of God's anticipation of the needs of man and his desire to see man take advantage of his work. In this narrative, we first hear Christ say:

"The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the marriage feast: And they would not come. Again he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them that are bidden, Behold, I have made ready my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage feast." (vs. 2-4)

We are impressed, first of all, that the King of the parable, who is to be seen as a figure of God, places great significance in the feast, as royalty would be expected to do. He is at first patient with the refusal of the guests who were "bidden," or previously notified of the impending event. His second invitation contains an almost pleading reminder of the meticulous preparation he has made for their benefit. In preparation of the event of the glorification of his son, God spent centuries of labor. His first patient disregard of the refusal of the Jews to take advantage of his labor is prompted by the fact that he had made such minute and careful preparation on their behalf, and did not want such labor wasted. Next, Christ says:

"But they made light of it, and went their ways one to his own farm, another to his merchandise: and the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed those murders, and burned their city." (vs. 5-7)

God's patience came to an end with the privileged Jews, when they consistently refused to accept his invitation. His anger was kindled against them. However, having once provided the spiritual blessings of "entering in," and having no desire to see his preparations prove futile, he commands his servants to invite all who will to come in:

"Then he saith to the servants, The wedding is ready, but they that were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore unto the partings of the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage feast. And those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found both bad and good: and the wedding was filled with guests." (vs. 8-10)

The reason for the broader invitation is seen in the unworthiness of the Jews. This turn of events was prophesied in the Old Testament (Deut. 32:15-21, Isa. 11:10, etc.), which, evidently, the Jews did not heed, or did not comprehend. Therefore, the Gentiles were provided an entrance into the covenant with God. The servants, it is said, invited "all as many as they found, both bad and good." This indicates that God expects no previous status of moral attainment in those who are invited to take advantage of his great feast. This magnanimous act was demonstrated forcefully in the practice of Christ to eat with Publicans and sinners, as well as in the efforts of Paul and others to convert the Gentiles.

This magnanimity on the part of God has certain bounds, nevertheless. He is shown in the parable to be exacting in the matter of requiring the observance of the proper social conventions. The guest must be careful not to offend God by failing to put on the "wedding-garment."

"But when the king came in to behold the guests, he saw there a man who had not on a weeding-garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how earnest thou in hither not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless. Then the king said unto his servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few chosen." (vs. 11-14)

Even though God has let down the bars to opportunity of entrance, he is nonetheless in a position to demand obedience to accepted fashion or custom from the one who enters. This explains the forcefulness in the manner of Christ when he tells Nicodemus, "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5) Thus, we are required to enter through the portals of the kingdom by obedience to the commands of God. Baptism in water, and spiritual regeneration become the fulfillment of the figure of the "wedding-garment."

When God thus shows his mercy to all mankind, what kind of people respond? The parable of the Net (Matt. 13:47-50) tells us that all kinds are gathered, but some do not remain:

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but the bad they cast away. So shall it be in the end of the world: the angels shall come, and sever the wicked from among the righteous, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The lesson here compares to the reference in the parable of the Marriage Feast to the invitation of all, "both bad and good." Since the invitation is not restricted, it is expected that the response will be general. This is a fact not readily accepted by some Christians, today, who limit their efforts to convert those who seem to have moral, mental, or sometimes, financial qualities to commend them.

Christ opened his arms to the "meek" and the "poor in spirit" (Matt 5:3-5) as well as to the rich and proud. he realized that the former were more likely prospects than the latter. He shamed the Jews through his commendation of the gentile Centurion, who expressed his complete confidence and trust in Jesus' authority, by saying, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." (Matt. 8:10) He also commended the readiness of publicans and harlots to repent and turn; definite requirements involved in proper response to entering the kingdom. He said:

"But what think ye? A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in the vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir: and went not. Which of the two did the will of his father? They say, the first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." (Matt. 21:28-31)

The man who fails to repent, or to obey the requirement to clothe himself in the proper spiritual attire, also fails to attain an entrance into the kingdom. Christ also speaks his condemnation of those who binder others from entering in:

"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter." (Matt. 23:13)

All men need the kingdom, for all have sinned. One does not need to be classed with the harlot in order to be susceptible to invitation, but he must have the ability to know his state as a sinner, and thus to know his need to "enter the kingdom."