“I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” C. S. Lewis
So one Sabbath day Jesus shared a meal at the house of a leader of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1).
There were a number of Pharisees and lawyers there - all of whom evidently believed that "blessing" came from position and connections, which is still highly prevalent in our thinking today (vs. 7, 15). Sadly because that was their focus, they ignored the needs of the sick and poor right under their noses (like the man with dropsy). Jesus sought to correct their skewed values and their practice by first healing the man with dropsy – (vs. 4), and then by teaching them kingdom values and realities - (vs. 8-14).
One of those reclined at the table with Jesus, after hearing Jesus’s teaching in the above mentioned verses, rather randomly blurted out these words "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God." (vs. 15). He and probably the others thought because they were Jews/God’s chosen people, their entrance into His kingdom was guaranteed.
In the verses that follow in Jesus's response to that dangerously entitled statement, He sought to make crystal clear that not all will partake of this dinner (heaven or eternal life). He used the analogy of a dinner that God will be throwing, since the inviting of guests to one's dinner had been the topic of discussion up to this point.
16"But He (Jesus) said to him, "A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' Comment: First the man giving the dinner “invited many.” Then he sent his slave to urge them to come/respond to the invitation once the meal was ready. After these invited folk gave their various excuses, the man/master sent out more invitations as seen in vs. 21 and vs. 23. The multiple and gracious invitations of God to man as seen throughout the scriptures flow out of His mercy and are extended to all in this life. I believe He speaks to men outside of scripture as well through many different means like dreams and visions for instance. And by using people in our lives, directing us to Radio or TV stations or Websites wherein Christ is proclaimed, and even speaking to us through bumper stickers, and a host of other means. Since He is God and our Creator and we are His creation, one invitation should suffice. Instead He has invited and reasoned and contended with us again and again and again. 18"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' 19 Another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' 20 Another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' "21 And the slave came back and reported this to the master. Then the head of the household became angry (God's reasonable and righteous response to those who ignore His gracious and multiple invitations in this life) and said to this slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' 22 And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' 23 And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner."
Please note the word "none", which refers to all those who gave the excuses in vs. 18, 19, 20. The implication is they refused right up to their death. There certainly does not appear to be any hope for mercy after their death. Also possible that Jesus is saying here there will come a point where the invitations will end. They are not infinite!
I began reading biographies of great men of God like John Wesley and missionaries like Hudson Taylor while in College in San Jose. I took the Perspectives Course on the World Christian Movement in Pasadena during the summer of 1978 (before my senior year at SJSU). I majored in Missions at Dallas Seminary. I know a little bit about the great sacrifice sometimes including martyrdom, sometimes including losing one's wife or child or children to disease that many of these missionaries over the last centuries have paid. One of the primary motivations that led them to endure such suffering and hardship is because they knew those peoples only had this life in which to respond; and that there was a just and horrible penalty for refusing His many and gracious invitations in the life to come.
Because God is so loving and merciful and gracious and kind and because He is always working, never sleeping - He is constantly inviting the peoples He created in His image to come into an eternal relationship with Him. Everyone of them should have jumped at the first chance. That is how someone made in the image of God should respond to their God. That is how a creature should respond to their Creator.
I cannot think of a greater gamble in the Universe than thinking that the living God who made us for Himself is somehow going to overlook our rejection of perhaps hundreds or even thousands of His merciful invitations, and His many warnings that our life is like a vapor and could be brought to an end at any moment (see James 4:14); and then continue to offer more invitations after our death. After we have intentionally and obstinately refused all of His invitations and warnings and reminders in this earthly life.
Finally as this chapter goes on to state in vs. 25-35, Jesus has always been after disciples, not just church members. One of the reasons I am posting these blogs and studies on a not so popular subject is we disciples need to shore up our discipleship. We live in an extremely entitled society, wherein everyone deserves everything anyone else has. Our “rights” increase by the day because we worship ourselves and the creation, and have not given ourselves to knowing our God/the Creator.
A disciple should every day rejoice that his or her name is written in the book of life – knowing deep in our spirit that we fully deserve eternal torment in hell; that God would be utterly just and righteous in sending us there apart from our faith and trust and clinging to Christ; and that it is only the great mercies of God that have delivered us from that just punishment. If we do not know these things, then we do not know God as we should and we do not know ourselves as we should. May God mercifully continue to open our eyes and soften our hearts!