The Marriage of the Lamb
– Part II

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Guests at a wedding celebrate the union of the bride and groom. They witness the ceremony in which the couple is joined in the marriage covenant, and they should rejoice in the love that binds the two into one. However, they can never be as happy as newlyweds who have genuinely pledged themselves to one another for life.

The eternal relationship between Christ and His saints is the basis for human marriage which, in turn, provides a beautiful symbol for the spiritual union of redeemed humanity with its Savior. Christ has loved His people so much that He laid down His life to ensure their eternal purity. The love saints have for their Lord is demonstrated by their sincere efforts to please Him. This is wonderfully described by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33.

When Christ returns in glory, His bride (i.e. the redeemed of humanity) will be joined to Him completely in resurrection glory. This is the “marriage of the Lamb” (v. 7). Chosen in eternity past and betrothed to Christ by the Father, each believer has been purified by Christ’s sacrifice through regeneration and sanctification of the Spirit. The bride is pure by the imputed righteousness of Christ; she is clothed in her own righteous deeds and adorned with her reward. Her appearance is pictured in verse eight as pure glory (“clean and bright”; Rev. 4:4; 15:6). The saints will be pleasing in the sight of Christ (cf. Ps. 45:9-14), and we shall be pleased to be like Him (Ps. 17:15; 1 Jn. 3:2).

From the rapture of the New Testament Church until the final glorification of all the saints throughout the Millennial kingdom, they are presented and officially wed to Christ. Together, the Lord and His saints will experience eternal happiness before God in His kingdom, which is symbolized in verse nine by “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” The holy angels will certainly bear witness to all of this as fellow servants of and ministers to the saints. As we see in Revelation 19:9-10, all who are part of the marriage celebration are blessed.

The Marriage of the Lamb – Part II (19:7-10)
The Guests are Blessed (vv. 9-10)
Happy are the Saints (v. 9)
The angel which began speaking to John in 17:1 has guided the apostle through this portion of the vision until now. It is he who tells John to record (“write”) the beatitude of verse nine: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” There are seven beatitudes (pronouncements of “blessing” or “happiness”) that appear throughout the book (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Each describes the happiness of the saints as those who read this book, who obey its truth, who sanctify themselves, who die in Christ, and who are resurrected to reign with Christ in the fullness of eternal life in God’s kingdom. This is primarily a pronouncement of happiness for the saints who, despite the trials of this world, will share the joy of the kingdom with the Lord (cf. Matt. 5:3-10). It is symbolized by a joyous feast (Is. Matt. 8:11; 22:1-14).

Holy angelic beings have long been observing, marveling, and participating in God’s work of preparing believers as the bride of Christ (Heb. 1:14; 1 Pet. 1:12). They will likewise join in the joyous celebration that surrounds the heavenly marriage (Rev. 19:5-7). So they, as servants of God also, are certainly guests of this wonderful event in that sense. This seems to be emphasized in the next verse as will be noted.

Many take verse nine to be an invitation to Old Testament, Tribulation, and Millennial saints to come to the wedding of the New Testament Church, whom they single out as the bride. Yet most commentators will also acknowledge that these must ultimately be considered as part of the bride. However, taking into account the entirety of Scripture, this division of the saints by era seems unnecessary when interpreting this passage. Part one of this study addresses this issue.

Rather than merely being an invitation to wedding guests to observe, this verse is an effectual call to the bride (i.e. all the saints of God before and after the cross) to partake of the supper (“called to”). In other words, happy are the people who are saved from sin to enter into and enjoy God’s kingdom! The eternal happiness of the saints of every era of redemptive history is in view here. They all join Christ in resurrection glory to serve God in His kingdom as an eternal representation of His grace, which is precisely God’s purpose for redemption (Eph. 1:3-14; 3:9-11). NT saints are certainly the first to fully partake.

This is precisely what John and the faithful saints of the first century needed to hear. They were going through great persecution from within the church and without (Rev. 1:9). Many churches were plagued by false teachers, which produced false believers and, at best, worldly believers. Christ issued a call for repentance and purity to the churches before His return (Rev. 2-3).

True believers needed and still need this promise of eternal happiness in the kingdom — to know, as the angel reminds John, that, “These are the true sayings of God” (v. 9b). This includes everything revealed since 17:1. Even though rebellion will increase, and its persecution of the saints with it, God will destroy Babylon (Rev. 17-18). He calls for the marriage of the Lamb to begin immediately after the judgments of the Tribulation when Christ returns in glory. This guarantee urges the saints to pursue holiness and maintain hope.

So when we refer to the guests being happy, we are primarily speaking of all those who partake of God’s kingdom. That logically includes the holy angels, but here it specifically refers to all the saints.

Helpful are the Angels (v. 10)
As mentioned earlier, verse 10 emphasizes the holy angels as servants of God in His kingdom who observe the marriage of the Lamb and rejoice in it. They are indeed guests at the wedding, but they do not share in the unique happiness between Christ and His bride.

But as a saint, John was completely overwhelmed by all of this spectacular information. In fact, he was so overcome with emotion that he “fell at [the angel’s] feet to worship him.” This likely means that he was showing respect to the angel as one whom John felt was greater than he. The word, “worship” (Gr. – proskuneo), can describe the ancient custom of prostrating oneself to pay homage to one of superior rank or status (e.g. Gen. 23:12; Ex. 18:17; Ruth 2:10; 1 Kings 1:23; cf. Acts 10:25). It can also indicate worship of the true God (e.g. Josh. 5:14; Matt. 14:33) or of a false god (e.g. Lk. 4:7).

As a Jewish Christian, John certainly knew that the Triune God alone is worthy to be reverenced as the Sovereign Creator (cf. Ex. 20:3; Deut. 6:13; Matt. 4:10). He understood that Jesus of Nazareth is God the Son incarnate, who is the Christ and Son of God — King of kings and Lord of lords (Col. 2:18-19; Rev. 1:5-8, 17; 15:3-4; 17:14). It seems more likely that, in context, he is inclined to see the glorious angel, which bears such marvelous revelations from God, as one of higher rank than a human being who needed salvation.

But the heavenly messenger is quick to correct the apostle by saying, “See that you do not do that!” This is an emphatic and proper rebuke. The angel knew that the message he bore was the word of God to be given to the church. That made him nothing more than “a fellow servant” of John and all Christians (“your brethren”).

The angel was simply serving God by bringing this revelation to John to give to the church (Rev. 1:1-3). It is the church of Christ who bears “the testimony of Jesus” (i.e. the Gospel of Christ), and the revelation John received has been given for that purpose. We miss the point if we get distracted by the angelic messengers.

It is certainly amazing that these heavenly beings, who have never sinned, should be used by God to minister to those who need to be redeemed from sin. Yes, they are holy and glorified, and we will have fellowship with them for eternity. However, they are not greater than the saints. They are created beings who serve Christ by aiding the saints in doing God’s will (Heb. 1:5-14).

Therefore, the saints and angels are equally servants of the Almighty (cf. v. 6). So John’s response and ours must be to “worship God!” That is precisely what God wants when we receive and understand this and all of Scripture. For He has given us the truth of His Word so that we might know Him and do His will (Jn. 17:3; 2 Tim. 3:16). We are to represent our Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom in word and deed as His ambassadors to a rebellious world (2 Cor. 5:20; Phil. 2:12-16). As the angel reminds John, “…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” In other words, the central theme of our witness to the world is the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior to the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:5-6)! That is the heart of faithful preaching and Christian living.

The angels will rejoice when the marriage of the Lamb takes place. They will witness that most wonderful completion of God’s salvation of sinful human beings. But they cannot know the happiness of the union between Christ and the saints. Our joy in that celebration is unique because we are the very reason that Christ came into the world to die. We are the bride of Christ, chosen in Him and betrothed to Him before the foundation of the world. We are His bride, presented and wed to Him at the end of the age when He comes to rule the earth. What rich and beautiful symbolism to remind us that the happiness of heaven with Christ awaits us!

When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we are commemorating Christ’s death for us which makes us a pure bride. And we proclaim it until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:26). The bread represents His sinless life, and the juice pictures His life blood shed for the forgiveness of sins — the blood of the covenant that joins us to Him eternally (Matt. 26:28). When establishing the ordinance of the communion, our Lord said that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He drinks it new with us in the kingdom (Matt. 26:29). That will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb — the celebration of the completed union of Christ and His saints in the glory of heaven.

Does knowing the truth about the certainty of your relationship with Christ move you to worship God? Are you looking forward to the joy of eternity with Him?

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© Copyright 1997-2016 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.

The Marriage of the Lamb
– Part I

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A wedding is a joyous occasion. It is a time for celebrating the union of a man and woman in the life-long covenant of marriage. As a symbol of God’s relationship with His redeemed people, marriage reflects the eternal bond of love between Christ and His saints. The Lord will gather His bride to Himself at the end of this age to share the fullness of eternal life with Him, and all of heaven will rejoice and give God the glory.

Marriage was often pre-arranged in biblical times, and it consisted of three phases. First was the betrothal (i.e. engagement). This was a legally binding agreement between families in which they pledged their children to one another in marriage (cf. Matt. 1:18-20; Lk. 1:26-27). This was sometimes done even before their birth. Marrying into a family with shared values was of greatest concern.

Unlike modern protocol for choosing a spouse, the personal compatibility of the bride and groom was not of prime consideration. In keeping with God’s definition of love, the husband and wife were to set their love upon each other in a covenant relationship (Mk. 10:2-12; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). If they took that seriously, their commitment would engender an affection for one another. It is important to note that love is not emotional affection or physical attraction but the choice to seek another’s good based upon God’s will — even if it is not reciprocated. To love God is to do His will; to love others is to seek His will for their life (Matt. 22:36-40).

The actual wedding would come later whenever the couple was of age. Therefore, the second phase was the presentation of the couple. Here the bridegroom brought his bride to the home he had prepared for her (often a wing of his father’s house), and he hosted celebration festivities for family and friends lasting several days. At the end of that time came the third phase — the ceremony itself — which was concluded with a final supper. The bridegroom and bride were then left to consummate their marriage.

This ancient custom is referred to in the Bible when explaining the Lord’s relationship with redeemed humanity. The intimate union of Christ with His people was a mystery until revealed in more detail in the New Testament (Eph. 5:32), and we must address this doctrine as it pertains to eschatology.

In eternity past, God the Father chose and betrothed a bride to God the Son from among the human race. God the Spirit has been bringing her to maturity throughout redemptive history one believer at a time (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 13:20). Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ (the perfect union of God and Man in one Person and the Mediator between God and man; 1 Tim. 2:5-6) is frequently called a bridegroom in the New Testament (e.g. Matt. 9:15; 25:1-13; Jn. 3:29).

The presentation of the bride will apparently begin when the NT saints are caught away (i.e. raptured) into the Father’s house in heaven in resurrection glory immediately prior to the seven-year Tribulation at the end of this age (Jn. 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 3:21; 4:4). The OT saints (Dan. 12:1-3) and martyred Tribulation saints (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:13-17; 15:2-4), already in heaven, will evidently be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation. Saints entering the millennial kingdom of Christ in their natural bodies are certainly part of the bride, and it stands to reason they will be glorified in resurrection in the course of that time period (Rev. 20:4-6).

All who are Christ’s at His coming will be resurrected from the rapture until the end of the Millennial kingdom (1 Cor. 15:20-25). It may well be that they are all symbolized by the 24 elders seen in Johns vision, although that certainly applies to the glorified NT church. Therefore, the elders can be seen as the bride, which is gradually coming to maturity from the Tribulation until the end of the millennial kingdom.

Each saint eventually appears before the judgment seat of Christ in resurrection glory. With sin already forgiven in Christ, they will be rewarded for obedience; whatever was of no eternal value will not be taken into account (Rom. 14:7-13; 1 Cor. 3:9-17; 2 Cor. 5:9-10). Like a virgin bride arrays and adorns herself for the wedding, so they are purified by Christ’s imputed righteousness, clothed in righteous acts, and adorned with rewards.

The wedding day itself (including the final supper; cf. Matt. 26:29) would seem to be the thousand years (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8; Rev. 20:4). By then, all the saints are fully glorified. In other words, the bride is ready. Then, with the ceremony/celebration complete, the marriage is consummated in the new creation which is the eternal phase of the kingdom (Rev. 21:2).

It is important to note that the saints of the NT era are unquestionably referred to as the Lord’s “church” (Gr. – ekklesia; “those who are called out”; cf. Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:47). However, the term broadly includes saints from the OT, Tribulation, and Millennial eras as well — those redeemed from sin before the final judgment (20:11-15). All those whom God redeems by grace through faith in Christ, before and after the cross, are called out of rebellion into the kingdom of righteousness (1 Pet. 2:4-10). The saints between Pentecost and the Rapture (the NT church) are simply appointed by God to first demonstrate the fullness of His grace to redeemed humanity. They are the first to be resurrected and are, therefore, unquestionably identified as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33).

But an unnecessary distinction is often made between saints of different eras. It is true that Israel the nation is distinct from the NT church which contains both Jews and Gentiles. That distinction should be made, since the national promises to Israel regarding Christ the King and His kingdom are to Abraham’s believing descendants through Isaac and Jacob bringing the blessing of salvation to the world (Gen. 12:1-3; Rom. 9:1-5). The Abrahamic covenant identifies God’s kingdom claim to the earth (Gen. 15), and the Davidic covenant provides a royal lineage for the Christ of God (2 Sam. 7). The righteous King and His kingdom of righteousness come to the world through the Jews by God’s sovereign choice (Jn. 4:21-24; Rom. 9-11).

God’s dealings with Israel emphasized the righteous law of God’s kingdom with the promise of atonement for repentant transgressors; the NT church currently emphasizes the fullness of His grace to the redeemed as a result of Christ’s atoning work. It is the same kingdom purpose of God throughout redemptive history, but He has emphasized different aspects of redemption (i.e. law/grace).

However, to say that the bride of Christ is only the NT church does not take all of Scripture into account. Both Israel the nation and the NT church represent God’s kingdom, and both have contained true believers and false believers (Matt. 13:36-43; Rom. 9:6-8). Only those who truly believe God’s promise of redemption through Christ are the actual saints of God who comprise the true church and bride of Christ. This remnant of humanity will live glorified in the kingdom with Him for eternity, and the NT church fully manifests this (Eph. 1:3-14; 3:8-21). However, what John sees in the vision is broader than just the NT church.

When all rebellion is crushed (Rev. 17-18) and righteousness reigns, then it will be time for the marriage ceremony itself to be concluded with the final supper. This is the focus of Revelation 19:7-10. This passage expands the final “Alleluia” of verse six, which comes from all of God’s angelic and human servants in heaven. The Lord has been praised for His salvation, judgment, worthiness, and sovereignty (vv. 1-6). This praise initiates the return of Christ to establish His throne on earth. He comes with His saints to destroy any of His enemies who have not been killed by the Tribulation judgments (Rev. 19:11-21ff). And so the Marriage of the Lamb of God (Rev. 5) begins.

The verses before us explain that the Lord is praised for the marriage, the bride is revealed, and the guests are blessed. We will consider the praise and the bride in this study.

The Marriage of the Lamb – Part I (19:7-10)
The Lord is Praised (v. 7)
As Christ calls the citizens of heaven to praise God (v. 5), the great multitude of elect humanity and angels loudly respond: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (v. 6). This praise for God’s sovereignty is logically followed with a declaration that the time “has come” for “the marriage of the Lamb.” It is clear that the marriage ceremony is initiated with Christ’s glorious appearing.

When redemptive history comes to its close — when the rebellion is crushed and all that offends is removed from the kingdom (Matt. 13:41) — it will be time to joyously celebrate what God has accomplished. What the Lord God Almighty determined in eternity past and made reality in the course of time will, at long last, come to fruition. Those in heaven will “be glad and rejoice and give [God] glory” because now Christ’s “wife has made herself ready.” That is, the saints are ready for the ceremony, being arrayed in their obedience and adorned with their reward.

The Bride is Revealed (v. 8)
We see that, to the bride, “it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright.” The bride in many cultures is often dressed in white to reflect her purity as a virgin. Her chastity is on display in the ceremony because she has reserved her body for her husband. And she is often adorned with jewelry and flowers to showcase the beauty of her heart as much as her outward appearance. A virgin has the right to wear a symbol of purity. It is beautiful imagery that reflects the purity of God’s saints.

But how can sinners be pure before God? How can they be presented as a sinless bride to His sinless Son? The answer to that is the cause of all the rejoicing in that future day. For God has taken once immoral human beings, made them pure through Christ, and fashioned them into a bride fit for Him. This purity is “granted” to them in grace and is, therefore, not an inherent right.

In John’s vision, the citizens of heaven (including the saints) glorify God because it is time for the bride to be revealed. The “fine linen” of which John speaks refers to a wedding gown. It is not fashioned from ordinary material. As the term suggests, it is costly and delicate — a special cloth for a special dress to be worn on a most special occasion. In ancient times, such material was woven from a species of Egyptian flax known as “bysuss,” which produced an ultra soft material. It was indeed expensive but appropriate, and it provides rich symbolism as John describes the bride of Christ.

We are told in the second half of this verse that, “the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” It is true that we are not inherently pure, and we cannot make ourselves pure. But God has made us completely holy in Christ as if we had never sinned. We are justified by grace through faith and are no longer condemned by God’s law (Rom. 8:1) While believers are made righteous before God by Christ’s sinless sacrifice and His imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:22-25), that is not what they are arrayed in as the bride. God has purified them through Christ so that they may be a chaste bride, but believers adorn themselves with their obedience to God’s will. That is what is meant by the “righteous acts [deeds] of the saints.”

If you are a true follower of Christ, you will outwardly manifest that you are His by your loving obedience to God’s will (Jn. 14:15-21; 15:9-10; 1 Jn. 3:10-24). That is, your sanctified life is a reflection (i.e an adornment) of your justified position before God. Christ’s righteousness makes you a pure bride, but your righteous acts are your luxurious wedding gown that indicates your purity. The reward we receive in heaven for our obedience will adorn our garment like precious stones and other jewelry.

The wedding symbolism is completely appropriate to describe the wonderful union of Christ and His saints. In fact, this relationship is precisely why He instituted the covenant of marriage. God has chosen the bride and ensured her purity, betrothed her to His Son, and presents her for the ceremony. It is little wonder that such tremendous rejoicing and praise will take place in heaven when Christ is ready to appear!

As we will see in part two of this study, the guests at the wedding will be blessed to be invited and participate in this event of the ages.

Are you a part of the bride of Christ? Do you long to be fully glorified forever with your Lord in the heavenly Father’s house? Are you adorning yourself with righteous acts for the Marriage of the Lamb?

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© Copyright 1997-2016 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.