Yesterday I taught on the Marriage Supper of the Lamb from Revelation 19. It is a very cool passage. In the first 10 verses of the chapter are the only uses of the word, Alleluia, in the New Testament. It is a familiar exclamation that means, Praise the Lord! It seems that God is so excited about this event, where as the Bride of Christ we are presented to Him as His church, that He saved the use of Alleluia for the description of it.
To fully understand what it means to be the Bride of Christ we need to understand some differences between modern and ancient Hebrew wedding customs. In our bridal culture the dude pops the question, they engaged for a time, then the wedding day comes. The big deal of the event is the bride’s entrance and after the ceremony is the two hour reception—and the honeymoon is usually a week in Maui. In Biblical times the equivalent of engagement was betrothal this happened when you were kids. Dads picked out a spouse for their kiddos. I see the wisdom in this strategy. It was a decision based on family values and character more than feelings and attraction. You were betrothed growing up, and it was so serious that you had to get a form of divorce to break it off. Finally on the day of the wedding everyone wasn’t sitting waiting for the bride, but the bride sat with friends and family waiting for the bridegroom to come for her. She had to be all gussied up and stay that way, because never knew when he would come. When he got there, took his bride, big parade to where the wedding and reception and honeymoon were all rolled up into a whole week of celebrating where it was a public feast by day with everyone celebrating and a private party by night in the bridal chamber.
There is a spiritual equivalent to each stage—The day you were saved—you were engaged to Christ. 1 Peter 1:8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. We have even been given an “engagement ring,” 2 Corinthians 1:22 …he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.
The Helper, Jesus described in John’s gospel, is the diamond ring promising us that one day, marriage will come. In the mean time Jesus has gone to His Father’s house, to build a place for us.
Engagements can be rough—all the difficult work of preparing for the wedding—none of the benefits–don’t get to live together, have to keep waiting for the fullness of the relationship, to make love, trusting that God’s plan is better and that it is worth the wait. And so it is challenging as we walk with Christ without seeing Him, having to trust that this world is not our home and the mansion He has prepared for us is better than anything this world can offer. And we are waiting on that day—when Jesus will come for His bride—in the rapture and claim us for Himself:
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.
In the mean time, we need to make sure we are “dressed” for the wedding. Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. We have incentive to stay pure—because He could literally come at any moment. John said this hope should purify our souls:
1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
At the end of the message we invited people to RSVP for this feast, by giving their lives to Christ. We called them to publicly walk down the aisle of the church, just as a bride would, pledging their hearts to Christ. It was wonderful to watch 15 people take that radical step of faith. LOVE IT!
Here is a hd video of the service, check out the song we sang just before the message. It is definitely not a traditional worship song. Etta James originally sang it and it is a love song written to a person, but we know that human love is a mystery that shows us how much Christ loves us, and so we sang it to Christ. Interestingly enough, the song itself ends up in “heaven.” Our worship team came up with a killer version of it and Crystal’s voice is epic.