The picture of marriage is often used in the Old Testament to illustrate the nature of God’s relationship with His people Israel (e.g. Isaiah 62:5; Ezekiel 16). She came to Mount Sinai like a bride to her wedding ceremony (Jeremiah 2:2); at the foot of the mountain she entered into a solemn covenant with her God, to be His people for ever.
Unfortunately Israel tended to play the part of an unfaithful wife, turning away from the true God to worship fertility gods and other idols (Hosea 3:1). And Satan is still trying to lead the Church astray by means of false teachings that proclaim a ‘different’ gospel (II Corinthians 11:2-4). Over and over again, idolatry is compared to adultery; it introduces ‘another’ into what should be an exclusive relationship between us and God, and it makes Him jealous (Deuteronomy 6:14,15; I Corinthians 10:21,22).
The Bridegroom and the Bride
Jesus took the metaphor of marriage a stage further, using the marriage customs of His culture to teach us truths about our relationship with Him. At that time, a father would arrange a marriage for his son and pay a bride-price in order to seal the betrothal. Then the son would return to his father’s home, while his bride-to-be made herself ready. On the day of the wedding he would go to her house, amidst great celebration, and take her home to live with him.
There are many striking parallels to Christ’s relationship with us. God has chosen us to be His people, and has paid a great price for us (I Corinthians 6:20). We are now living in the period of ‘betrothal’, bound to our Bridegroom by solemn covenant and commanded to be faithful to Him. But we are looking forward with eager anticipation to the day when He will return to take us home, as He has promised (John 14:2,3), to be with Him for ever.
The relationship between Christ and His Church is fundamentally one of love. He died for her in the first place, and He now cares for her and is in the process of transforming her into a partner who will be fully worthy of Him (Ephesians 5:25-27). For example, we are to be dressed in ‘righteous acts’ (Revelation 19:7,8) – an outfit that Christ gives to us (Ephesians 2:10). Nevertheless, we are not passive recipients of this gift; it is up to us to put it on. But how could we refuse? What self-respecting woman would fail to make the necessary preparations for her wedding day?
The wedding supper of the Lamb
“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19: 9)
Will you be there? Collectively, we’re the Bride (and there’s no doubt about her presence!); but as individuals, we’re the guests. God is a rich and generous host who is not grudging in issuing His invitations, and they are already being delivered throughout the whole world. But He invites; He does not compel. And that means that we have the awesome option of refusal. But nobody will be excluded – except by their own choice (Matthew 22:1-14).
When that day does eventually come, what will it be like? The very imperfect Church that we know (a bit like Cinderella – dirty, despised, and dressed in rags) will be ‘made-up’ and dressed in her best to become a creature of dazzling beauty (Isaiah 61:10). And her happiness will be unimaginable.
This will be the final chapter of history, the completion of all that has gone before, the culmination of all our service and our worship. Our chequered story will be brought at last to its triumphant conclusion, ending as all the best stories do:
“… and they lived happily ever after.”