Wednesday, September 24, 2014

“The Second Coming of Jesus”: Dressed For the Judgment

Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Second Coming of Jesus"
For the week of September 27, 2014
Dressed For the Judgment

While on tour, a famous singer – whom we will call Liam Phillips - stopped in a major city to give a concert. One evening after rehearsal, the very casually dressed Liam decided to stop by an exclusive restaurant for dinner. On the door of this restaurant hung a sign that stated, "Jacket Required." Oblivious, Liam went right through the doors, without reading the sign. Naturally, he found himself denied entry by a tall, muscular man, who sternly warned, "Sir, you cannot enter dressed like that." Puzzled, the singer asked, "Why not?"  To which the bouncer replied, "We have a dress code, sir; it says so right there on the sign. Didn't you read it?"  With embarrassment, the singer answered, "No I didn't. What did it say?" Ever polite, the bouncer replied, "Jacket Required." Slightly chagrined, the singer, who was used to receiving preferential treatment, tried to charm his way in.  So he said to the bouncer, "Well, I am pretty sure an exception can be made, since I am Liam Phillips." Anticipating this, the bouncer stated, "Sir, "I know who you are, but you still cannot enter. I am just doing my job."

By now the singer was both frustrated, and hungry. Aggravated, he yelled at the bouncer, "Let me talk to your manager now! If he knew that you were denying me entrance, I could make him fire you!" Calmly, the bouncer replied, "Mr. Phillips, if my manager wants to make an exception that is his call. I do not have that authority," At that moment the manager entered the lobby and stated, "What is all the commotion?" To which the bouncer quickly replied, "Mr. Phillips would like to speak to you." "Ah, Mr. Liam Phillips," said the manager, "I love your music. What can I do for you?" Clearly frustrated, the singer quickly replied, "Thank you. I just want to order dinner, I'm hungry, but your muscle man will not let me in." "Mr. Phillips, I am sorry for your inconvenience, but we have a very strict policy concerning our dining attire. However, if you were to put on a jacket we would be glad to serve you."  "Where would I get a jacket at this time?" said Liam with a tone of sarcasm, it was rather late for stores to be open. "Well," said the manager, "There is a store right next door. They are still open. You can get one there. Please tell them Mr. Smith sent you."  "Fine," said the singer, "I'll be back." And with that he left the restaurant still fuming.

When he arrived at the clothing store, the attendant recognized him immediately, and said, "Liam Phillips, what an honor. Love your music. What can I do for you?" "Thanks man, I need a jacket," answered Liam. "Did Mr. Smith send you, Mr. Phillips?" asked the attendant. "Yes, He did," replied the singer. "Then please follow me," said the attendant. The attendant led the singer to a rack, and pulled out a jacket that he felt would fit. And, indeed it was a very good fit. The singer pulled out his credit card, and the attendant said, "Oh no, this is compliments of the restaurant."  Puzzled, the singer walked out of the store and then into the restaurant. He looked at the bouncer sheepishly, smiled and said, "I have my jacket."  The bouncer smiled in return, and nodded his head in approval, and said to Liam, "Come right in, Mr. Phillips, the maître d' will be with you shortly."

This account – loosely based on a true story, shows that the singer thought that his accomplishments or identity should have merited him entry into the restaurant. But, the restaurant had other standards: semiformal attire.  Knowing that not everyone would have a jacket when visiting the establishment, the restaurant provided complimentary attire so costumers would not have to leave, but could if they chose to, fit the standard of the restaurant and still be served. All were welcome to the restaurant, but only those with jackets would be allowed to stay and be served.

This is reminiscent of the parable of the Royal Wedding Feast of Matthew 22:1–14, where the invited guests are provided with garments, appropriate for the royal occasion.  Just as the singer in our story was required to be dressed in a certain manner to be served in the restaurant, so the wedding guests must be dressed in proper attire to attend the wedding. Matthew 22:8 states "those who were bidden [first] were not worthy."  That is to say they rejected the invitation. What made those invited last, worthy of attending the Royal Wedding Feast? They accepted the invitation. Yet and still, that was not enough.

When we look further we find that the King provided the garment that made the guests worthy of attending the wedding feast. Note that it was clear that the King wanted each of his guests to attend, for not only did he invite them to attend, but provided a garment tailor made for each. 

Later in the biblical narrative, we note that the King decided to come see His guests and there he found one not dressed with the garment he himself had provided.  When questioned, "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" this guest was speechless. He had no excuse. Garments were given to all. The fact that this man chose not to wear the wedding garment was an insult to the King. Thus he was thrown out into the utter darkness. This is a graphic description that salvation is more than accepting the gospel invitation. Putting on the garment provided at great cost is the only thing that will allow us to be served in the kingdom of God. Without it we will be thrown out into utter darkness, which represents eternal separation from God (Matthew 22:11-13).

If we think that the King took pleasure in punishing the offending man, then we miss the point that the King not only extended a personal invitation, but that he provided the proper attire for each -- a tailor made garment. Therefore we can intuit that the King was displeased, perhaps even grieved that the man chose not to wear the garment. How disappointing.

In this parable we are the guests who are bidden to attend the Wedding Banquet of our Bridegroom, the Lamb. As good Laodiceans, we may think that all of our accomplishments will make us worthy to enter and attend the Royal wedding feast. However, God's assessment of us is that we are unworthy, not having put on the garment of His character (See Revelation 3:15-17), but of our own devising (cf. Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons p. 311). Yet the garment provided by the King is the only attire of any value. Knowing that we are dressed improperly, and in danger of being thrown out, the King counsels us, "… buy of me … white raiment, that thou may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear…" (Revelation 3:18).  This white raiment represents the Righteousness of Christ, continually received by faith through grace, and is a gift. If you have accepted the invitation, have you received the gifted garment? Are you dressed for the divine Wedding Feast in royal attire, or are you wearing your own pitiful citizen's dress?
-Raul Diaz

Raul Diaz