The parable of the wedding garment, given in Matthew 22:1–14, opens before us a lesson of the highest consequence. By the marriage is represented the union of humanity with divinity; the wedding garment represents the character which all must possess who shall be selected by the king to attend the wedding banquet.
As we look at the parable more closely, we find that this invitation of the king has been extended to the people of this world for thousands of years. Verses 1–7 apply to the Jewish nation during the time of the Old Testament through the time of the ministry of Jesus in the first advent. The Jews refused to recognize Jesus as the Lamb of God Who had come to ratify the new covenant by His death on the cross. They refused to believe that Jesus ascended to heaven to open the holy place of the sanctuary in heaven. Therefore they cut off the means by which they could receive the wedding garment. The king was enraged by the refusal of the people to accept this gracious invitation. “He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city” (Matthew 22:7) in A.D. 70.
From the time of the first advent to the present time, the king has continued to send this gracious invitation to the people of this world. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.” Matthew 22:8–11.
These verses describe the great gospel invitation that has been going forth to the world during the ministry of Christ in the sanctuary of the new covenant in heaven. Jesus opened the sanctuary in heaven on the day of His resurrection when He confirmed the ratification of the covenant with His Father.
“Jesus refused to receive the homage of His people until He had the assurance that His sacrifice was accepted by the Father. He ascended to the heavenly courts, and from God Himself heard the assurance that His atonement for the sins of men had been ample, that through His blood all might gain eternal life. The Father ratified the covenant made with Christ, that He would receive repentant and obedient men, and would love them even as He loves His Son. Christ was to complete His work, and fulfill His pledge to ‘make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir’ (Isaiah 13:12). All power in heaven and on earth was given to the Prince of Life, and He returned to His followers in a world of sin, that He might impart to them of His power and glory.” The Desire of Ages, 790.
All through the history of the Christian church the invitation has been and is still being given to the people of the world to come to Jesus in the sanctuary in heaven that they may receive the wedding garment.
Satan stepped between the people and Christ while He was ministering in the daily service in the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven. He declared the Pope to be the head of the church in place of Christ. Next he directed the people to confess their sins to the priests who could never forgive their sins or provide them with a wedding garment. During the centuries that followed the knowledge of Christ’s ministry in the sanctuary in heaven was lost to the church.
But the knowledge of the ministry of Christ in the sanctuary above to provide the wedding garment was to be restored. “And he said to him, ‘For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.’ ” Daniel 8:14 RSV. Again the invitation to the wedding banquet went out to the world. “So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matthew 22:10. People responded to the invitation and the banquet hall was filled.
Finally the king entered to examine the guests to see if everyone was properly attired in the wedding garment. Matthew gives the following description: “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.” Verses 11, 12.
What is the wedding garment that this man failed to acquire? “In the parable of Matthew 22 the same figure of the marriage is introduced, and the investigative judgment is clearly represented as taking place before the marriage. Previous to the wedding the king comes in to see the guests, to see if all are attired in the wedding garment, the spotless robe of character washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb (Matthew 22:11; Revelation 7:14). … This work of examination of character, of determining who are prepared for the kingdom of God, is that of the investigative judgment, the closing of work in the sanctuary above.” The Great Controversy, 428.
“By the wedding garment in the parable is represented the pure, spotless character which Christ’s true followers will possess. To the church it is given ‘that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white,’ ‘not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing’ (Revelation 19:8; Ephesians 5:27). The fine linen, says the Scripture, ‘is the righteousness of saints’ (Revelation 19:8). It is the righteousness of Christ, His own unblemished character, that through faith is imparted to all who receive Him as their personal Saviour.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 310.]
“The man who came to the feast without a wedding garment represents the condition of many in our world today. They profess to be Christians, and lay claim to the blessings and privileges of the gospel; yet they feel no need of a transformation of character. They have never felt true repentance for sin. They do not realize their need of Christ or exercise faith in Him. They have not overcome their hereditary or cultivated tendencies to wrongdoing. Yet they think that they are good enough in themselves, and they rest upon their own merits instead of trusting in Christ. Hearers of the word, they come to the banquet, but they have not put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness.” Ibid., 315.
The reader could wisely ask, at this point, “How can I receive the wedding garment? How can I be sure I have the wedding garment on?” Thankfully the answer to these questions is very simple. It is found in the parable of the ten virgins. “The followers of Christ are to ‘wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding’ (Luke 12:36). But they are to understand His work, and to follow Him by faith as He goes in before God. It is in this sense that they are said to go in to the marriage.
“In the parable it was those that had oil in their vessels with their lamps that went in to the marriage. Those who, with a knowledge of the truth from the Scriptures, had also the Spirit and grace of God, and who, in the night of their bitter trial, had patiently waited, searching the Bible for clearer light—these saw the truth concerning the sanctuary in heaven and the Saviour’s change in ministration, and by faith they followed Him in His work in the sanctuary above. And all who through the testimony of the Scriptures accept the same truths, following Christ by faith as He enters in before God to perform the last work of mediation, and at its close to receive His kingdom—all these are represented as going in to the marriage.” [Emphasis added.] The Great Controversy, 427.
In this quotation, it is clearly seen that it was the wise virgins understanding of the “truth concerning the sanctuary in heaven and the Savior’s change in ministration” that were given entrance in to the wedding banquet. “By faith,” the wise virgins, “followed Him in His work in the sanctuary above.”
That it is the wedding banquet the virgins attend is made clear in the following references:
“They [the wise virgins] were not to be present in person at the marriage; for it takes place in heaven, while they are upon the earth. The followers of Christ are to ‘wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding’ (Luke 12:36). But they are to understand His work, and to follow Him by faith as He goes in before God. It is in this sense that they are said to go in to the marriage.” Ibid.
“Having received the kingdom, He will come in His glory, as King of kings and Lord of lords, for the redemption of His people, who are to ‘sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,’ at His table in His kingdom (Matthew 8:11; Luke 22:30), to partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Ibid., 426.
The case of the wise and foolish virgins is also represented in the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22. “In the parable of Matthew 22 the same figure of the marriage is introduced, and the investigative judgment is clearly represented as taking place before the marriage. Previous to the wedding the king comes in to see the guests, to see if all are attired in the wedding garment, the spotless robe of character washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb (Matthew 22:11; Revelation 7:14). He who is found wanting is cast out, but all who upon examination are seen to have the wedding garment on are accepted of God and accounted worthy of a share in His kingdom and a seat upon His throne.” Ibid., 428.
The necessity of understanding and cooperating with Christ in His closing ministry in the sanctuary above is explained in the following reference:
“Those who would share the benefits of the Saviour’s mediation should permit nothing to interfere with their duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God. … The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill. Every individual has a soul to save or to lose. Each has a case pending at the bar of God.” Ibid., 488.
This ministry of Christ in the sanctuary of the new covenant is just as important to our salvation as was His death upon the cross. “The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, ‘whither the forerunner is for us entered’ (Hebrews 6:20). … The salvation of man is accomplished at an infinite expense to heaven; the sacrifice made is equal to the broadest demands of the broken law of God. Jesus has opened the way to the Father’s throne, and through His mediation the sincere desire of all who come to Him in faith may be presented before God.” Ibid., 489.
It is our acceptance of and our participation with Christ in the confession of our sins and His atonement for them with His blood that we can receive the wedding garment. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9. Listen to the invitation of Christ: “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” John 7:37 KJV.
Not only must we receive the wedding garment ourselves, but when we receive it, it becomes our privilege and responsibility to tell others where they also can get it.
“All who have received the light upon these subjects are to bear testimony of the great truths which God has committed to them. The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects and be able to give an answer to everyone that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them.
“The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven.” The Great Controversy, 488, 489.
“God’s people are now to have their eyes fixed on the heavenly sanctuary, where the final ministration of our great High Priest in the work of the judgment is going forward—where He is interceding for His people.” Evangelism, 223.
“In order to endure the trial before them, they must understand the will of God as revealed in His word; they can honor Him only as they have a right conception of His character, government, and purposes, and act in accordance with them. None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict. To every soul will come the searching test: Shall I obey God rather than men? The decisive hour is even now at hand. Are our feet planted on the rock of God’s immutable word? Are we prepared to stand firm in defense of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12)? The Great Controversy, 593, 594.
“As the ministration of Jesus closed in the holy place, and He passed into the holiest, and stood before the ark containing the law of God, He sent another mighty angel with a third message to the world. … The third angel closes his message thus: ‘Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus’ (Revelation 14:12). As he repeated these words, he pointed to the heavenly sanctuary. The minds of all who embrace this message are directed to the most holy place, where Jesus stands before the ark, making His final intercession for all those for whom mercy still lingers.” Early Writings, 254.
“As a people, we should be earnest students of prophecy; we should not rest until we become intelligent in regard to the subject of the sanctuary, which is brought out in the visions of Daniel and John. This subject sheds great light on our present position and work, and gives us unmistakable proof that God has led us in our past experience. It explains … that Christ then entered into the most holy apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, and is there performing the closing work of His priestly office, in fulfillment of the words of the angel to the prophet Daniel, ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed’ (Daniel 8:14).” Evangelism, 222.
Not only do the wise virgins receive the wedding garment through the ministry of Christ in the most holy place, but this truth is also the anchor that keeps them from being swept away by the storm during the latter rain. “Many saw the perfect chain of truth in the angels’ messages, and gladly received them in their order, and followed Jesus by faith into the heavenly sanctuary. These messages were represented to me as an anchor to the people of God. Those who understand and receive them will be kept from being swept away by the many delusions of Satan.” Early Writings, 256.
The three angel’s messages are a vital witness to the ministry of Christ in the most holy place to provide the wedding garment. “I saw a company who stood well-guarded and firm, giving no countenance to those who would unsettle the established faith of the body. God looked upon them with approbation. I was shown three steps—the first, second, and third angels’ messages. Said my accompanying angel, ‘Woe to him who shall move a block or stir a pin of these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance. The destiny of souls hangs upon the manner in which they are received.’ ” [Emphasis added.] Ibid., 258, 259.
In conclusion, those who go to Jesus, Who is still mediating in the most holy place, with confession of sin will receive the wedding garment. “All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life. The Lord declares, by the prophet Isaiah: ‘I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins’ (Isaiah 43:25). Said Jesus: ‘He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.’ ‘Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven’ (Revelation 3:5; Matthew 10:32).” The Great Controversy, 483.
Dear friend will you be found with a wedding garment when probation closes or will the King find you “without a wedding garment”?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New International Version.)
Maurice Hoppe is Director of the Steps to Life training programs and a member of the Steps to Life Board. The Training Program for Ministers and Church Leaders is a correspondence course that prepares individuals to serve as pastors or Bible workers. Preparing for the Final Conflict is a correspondence course for the laity. Both of these courses teach present truth that will be an anchor for the soul during the storm of opposition and persecution just ahead. He and his wife also have a correspondence course offered through Revelation Ministry. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.