In theological circles, Isaiah 24-27 is called the “Isaiah Apocalypse”. An apocalypse is a style of writing which talks about the “end times”. Some churches use the name “The Apocalypse of John” for the last book of the New Testament, instead of “The Revelation to John”. So today’s passage can be considered to be a look to the future; a glimpse of the end as revealed to Isaiah.
The passage can be divided into two sections, verses 1-5 and 6-9.
- The first section is praise to God for all his saving acts. These actions do not reference a specific time or place; they are a general summary of God’s loving acts for his people. As such, it makes it easy and appropriate to extend this praise to our time and place.
- The second section shifts to a heavenly scene. God prepares a luxurious banquet for us, his people. The power of death is destroyed, and our tears are wiped away. The people of God rejoice!
For people of faith, the end times signify hope and promise, not fear and foreboding. Through the gift of His Son on the cross, God truly has destroyed the power of death. For this saving act, we shall sing His praises!
These verses are a portion of the closing lines to Paul’s letter to his beloved church in the Roman city of Philippi (in modern day Greece). If you want to read about how this church got started, and what Paul did there, turn to Acts 16:9-40.
- There is no doubt that Paul dearly loves this church. (v. 1)
- Two women in this church were in conflict with one another. Paul encourages them to resolve their issues. He calls upon an unnamed “true partner” (“yokefellow” in other translations) to intervene. Some believe that this partner might have been Lydia, who is mentioned in Acts 16, but this is just an educated guess. Paus reminds them all of the fine work these women have done to spread the Gospel. Finally, he reminds them that their names are “written in the book”; they will both spend eternity in heaven, so shouldn’t they settle their differences now? How might this apply to our own lives? (vv. 2-3)
- He encourages them to “always be glad and gentle with one another”. (vv. 4-5) This is given in spite of all the troubles that were brewing within that church:
- Power struggles (1:15-17)
- Suffering (1:29)
- Grumbling and arguing (2:14)
- Forcing Gentile Christians to conform to Jewish Law (3:2)
- Personal conflict (4:2-3)
Paul tells them to find peace through prayer (vv. 6-7).
- Verse 8 is beautiful, and worth of serious meditation.
- Paul closes this section by offering himself as an example. While it may sound a little conceited to us for Paul to do this, you must agree that there is merit in this suggestion. (v. 9)
All of our names are “written in the book”. We should all strive to set aside our differences, and work together to build up the Body of Christ.
We still live in troubled times. Our nation is torn apart. Our churches are in conflict with one another. Within our churches, members grumble and argue. Join me in keeping our minds fixed on things that are:
In my red letter edition of the Bible, these pages of Matthew’s Gospel are all red. Jesus is doing a lot of teaching. In the very next chapter, He will go to Jerusalem to teach some more. There, he will die on the cross. These are some of his final lessons for us. In these passages specifically, he is engaged with the Pharisees. He’s trying to get them to repent for their blindness in failing to recognize John the Baptist and himself.
This parable of Jesus is a wild one. It is easy for us to get derailed, and miss the point by focusing on the detail. Let’s pick through this, and try to find the God Message for us. It follows two similar stories about a king, rejection of the desired participants, and the welcoming of outsiders as replacements. This one is similar, but different.
- Jesus tells us that this story is about the “kingdom of heaven”. (v.2a)
- This parable is about a king and a wedding banquet for his son. (v. 2b)
- The king first invites deserved guests to the wedding feast, but there is refusal and violence. (vv. 3-6)
- The king is upset, and takes action. (v. 7)
- Then, the king invites others—ordinary street people to the banquet . This is similar to the vineyard stories we have recently studied. (vv. 8-10)
- But then it gets weird. The king sees that someone is not wearing the proper clothes to the banquet. He has them thrown out! (vv. 11-13)
The point of the parable is the same as the last two parables—those who “should” be first to enter the kingdom will be the last. Because of their confidence and arrogant piety, they are rejected. The common street folk come to the banquet instead.
The business about the proper clothing is unusual, and doesn’t sound like Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Let me offer this explanation.
- Back then, a white robe was the appropriate attire for attending a wedding banquet.
- In the book of Revelation (7:13-14) the saints (all believers) of the church wear white robes as a symbol of their holiness.
Perhaps in this parable Jesus is saying that you need to believe in him (wear the white robe) in order to attend. You can’t come to the banquet (go to heaven), if you don’t believe in him.
I think I’m going to start wearing a suit and tie to church again, just in case… (This is meant as a joke.)