I’d imagine that some of the force of an ancient angelic invitation has been lost on modern generations. When an angelic herald told John on Patmos to “write this” and said, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb,” I’d suggest that John and his generation were far more ecstatic about this invitation than our generation.
For one thing, they understood the concept. A simple form of a divine feast was already a common element in the Judaism of their day. How can our generation recover a longing for a table prepared in the absence of all enemies?
I’d like to offer some thoughts on the marriage supper in two parts. The name naturally divides itself into marriage and supper, and it seems good to me to begin with the supper part.
I could mention the fact that supper, even in ordinary mortal terms, is a joyful concept already. The miracle of a table laden with food is more apparent when food is more work to come by, but we can surely appreciate even today the joy of a good meal made ready and enjoyed in the company of our closest loved ones.
But the real starting place to understand the marriage supper is Isaiah 25:6-8:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord Hashem will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah was read as a sort of Messianic handbook in John’s time. Every image of the age to come was well-known and passages like this one were well-known and loved.
The idea of a Messianic banquet was a part of common Judaism. It is a theme in Luke’s gospel (which features eight banquets in which Yeshua teaches a table-full of willing or unwilling students).
In the “Rule of the Congregation in the Final Days” (1Q28a [1QSa]) we read an interesting piece of eschatological etiquette in 2:11-22. When we are seated at the banquet table with Messiah, we should not eat an olive or even dip our finger in the hummus until Messiah has said ha-motzi (the prayer over bread). It’s a good thing to know and maybe knowing it will reform our table manners here and now.
There is still one other interesting vignette about the notion of a banquet in the age to come. It happened when Yeshua was seated at a table teaching a bunch of Pharisees. He was challenging them and you might think they would all resent him assuming the role of teacher with them when they were eminent men and teachers themselves. But at least one of these gathered Pharisees understood, perhaps even hinting that Yeshua might be the one most fit to teach at a banquet:
When one of those who sat at table with him heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” -Luke 14:15
So, while the idea may sound strange to us, when John spoke of a marriage supper of the Lamb, his hearers were acquainted with the idea. A supper in the world to come, a supper presided over by Messiah himself (the Lamb), was a regular part of their future hope.