Jesus calls Heaven 'The Great Banquet'

Apr. 13—The Parable of The Great Banquet in Luke 14:15-24 is a story symbolizing God's invitation for sinners to repent, accept Jesus Christ as their savior and join the celebration of the redeemed in Heaven.

That's according to Ministers Erik Stadler and Allan Stanglin, who say Jesus' emphasis on food in the parable is consistent with imagery that's used throughout the Bible.

"The person who gives this great banquet is God," said the Rev. Stadler, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church. "Verse 16 says many guests had already gotten one invitation, but they all began to make excuses.

"Then the master became angry and invited other people. God wants everybody to be part of his kingdom. The scary part is the last verse where he says the people who didn't come will never get a taste of his banquet.

"We give excuses why we don't go to church because we put earthly priorities over spiritual priorities."

Stadler said God is loving and patient, but the consequences of refusing his invitation can be severe.

"We never know when we're going to die, so why not take advantage of the opportunity and be prepared?" he asked. "God's invitation is free. It's there and we just need to be part of his kingdom through Christ."

Stanglin, minister of Golf Course Road Church of Christ in Midland, said the Bible often refers to food and drink as the reward of the obedient.

"I think Heaven is a big feast with the best of meats and the finest wines for people from the north, south, east and west," Stanglin said. "Everything about Heaven is food on big tables where people experience community with friends like them.

"This meal is for everybody, but we have to accept the invitation. God doesn't force himself on us."

Stanglin said the juice and unleavened bread from the Communion Table are a prelude to the heavenly banquet.

"If we're feeling lonely and left out, we can go have a meal with our parents and family because these people know all our faults and shortcomings," he said. "They know everything about me and they still love me.

"People are eating and drinking on every page of the Bible like the feast given for the Prodigal Son. The main point is that the meal is for everybody being forgiven and accepted. It's about belonging and being part of this eternal family. You're invited. There is a place setting with your name on it."