We’ve all been to weddings. Some are beautiful expressions of love and faith. Others are different affairs – perhaps the families doesn’t get along, the bride is too stressed, or a family member creates drama. Fortunately, my wedding was an amazing event full of joy and great memories.
As common as weddings are, marriage and love between a man and woman are something of a mystery, even according to biblical wisdom (Proverbs 30:18-19, Ephesians 5:22-23). Most people today spend a great deal of money and energy on a celebration that lasts a few hours. Why?
Marriage originated in the heart of God. The Bible doesn’t say Adam was looking for a wife or lonely. Nope. God saw that Adam needed a partner to fulfill the mission – to multiply the image of God and spread the creative order of Eden across the Earth. The resulting companionship and intimacy were great bonuses.
Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that when God decided to initiate redemption, he rejected the Tower of Babel and chose a man faithful to one wife (Abram and Sarai). Later, he sent his Son into the world to save it through a betrothed couple as the vessel and caretaker (Mary and Joseph).
The idea of marriage and weddings appear throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament. In fact, we see the culmination of God’s story within the vision of a future and heavenly wedding feast.
Where Does the Bible Mention the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?
The last book in the canon isn’t the revelation of the Beast, Antichrist, or the plagues. Even though those things exist as visions of what is to come, the whole book is a complete revelation of Jesus Christ.
The final expression of that revelation tells us a great deal. After God stops all the violence and tyranny, John is shown this by the angel:
“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’” (Revelation 19:6-9)
This is the goal. Intimacy with God. All of God’s work and mission has been and continues to be a reconciled, intimate relationship with a people, his children, and the Church.
This should make sense. If Jesus is set up as the “second Adam,” a different source of a new species of being (human and divine), then he also needs a Bride that is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Made of the same material, which is one of the reasons we are born again so that we can have that forever relationship with him.
More important things happen after this union in Revelation. Satan is thrown into the fiery pit, and God judges all creation a final time. Then God reveals a New Heaven and New Earth, an entirely new creation. A city comes down from this New Heaven to rest on the New Earth.
“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” (Revelation 21:2-3)
Just so we’re clear, that’s you and me, the New Jerusalem. That’s the Church arrayed like a bride where God lives forever. This description of the city/bride continues in Revelation 21:9-10.
This is exactly what Jesus promised before his death and resurrection.
Where Did Jesus Talk About a Marriage Feast?
Jesus talked a great deal about marriage during his ministry. Christ performs his first miracle at a wedding feast (John 2:12). Along with express teaching (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:1-12), Jesus used the idea of a wedding feast in two parables.
First, a king throws a wedding feast for his son (Matthew 22:1-14). He invites his friends and the community, and people either blow him off or mock him. The king then opens the invitation to the poorest, destitute, and lame. Even still, someone tries to sneak in without wearing the correct robe. The man dressed inappropriately is cast out to severe punishment. (Compare with the robes of God’s people in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the “righteous deeds of the saints,” Revelation 19:8)
Next, Jesus speaks about a wedding feast where a few virgins fall asleep, waiting for the groom to show up and for the party to start. They ran out of oil, their lamps went out, and they weren’t allowed into the wedding feast. (Compare to the bride in Revelation that “prepared herself” for her husband, Revelation 19:7).
Both of these parables explain the coming Kingdom and what we would consider the “end times” and judgment. But it wasn’t a cold, legal court setup but a marriage feast—a party.
Finally, Jesus tenderly expresses his leaving and returning in John 14:1-3: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Because of their marriage and wedding culture, the disciples would have understood him perfectly.
How Did People Celebrate Marriage Feasts in Jesus’ Time?
In the Jewish culture during the time of Jesus, marriages were commonly arranged between families, although people were seldom forced into marriage. Men would have been around 18, women as young as 13 or 14. The families would provide mutual support.
After the marriage deal, the betrothal would last about a year before the actual wedding. During this time, the groom would either prepare a room at his father’s house or build one for the new couple to live in. Also, wedding feast preparations would be made.
At the end of that year, the groom (wearing nice clothes, maybe a crown) and his friends would march through the town or village in a big show to get the bride. The bride was carried to the feast on a litter. She would wear white, and people would have a parade back through town, singing traditional wedding songs, possibly selections from Song of Solomon.
The wedding feast itself would last for five to seven days. This was a party for the whole community. Once the celebration was over, there was no “honeymoon.” The couple would then move into their house or room in the groom’s father’s house and consummate their relationship.
We see elements of this through different Gospel stories and Jesus’ words the night before his death. He promised he would prepare a place in his Father’s house and return to carry them there. It was literally a marriage proposal and commitment on a New Covenant and spiritual level.
Also, we notice the connection at the end of Revelation. In John the Apostle’s day, the bride would have been carried to the wedding feast. Then, later, she would have gone to live with the groom in the Father’s house. We see this in the separate passages of Revelation 19 and the announcement of the wedding feast and then – once time passes – the Church living with Christ and the Father as the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21.
What Do We Need to Know About the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?
We recognize the heart of God within this wedding feast. First, God chose us. He isn’t obligated, nor has he been tricked into this. He desperately wants to be joined with us forever.
Second, the party doesn’t start until the groom shows up. It’s all about him.
Third, it’s a party. There’s dancing, drinking, and singing. We see a similar principle within the parable of the Prodigal Son, where the Father kills a fattened calf and invites the community to a party to celebrate the return of the wayward child. God is happy about this.
Fourth, he has prepared this for us. The bride was carried, not under her own power, to a celebration she didn’t plan. Nor did she work to provide. It was already ready and waiting for her to enjoy.
Fifth, this is based on God’s promise and commitment. If he’s promised, then he will do it. We can trust his love, power, and character within this promise. No matter what occurs while we wait, he is coming for us.
Sixth, this isn’t an end. It’s a beginning. Most people see weddings as a joyous occasion to celebrate the promise of a long life to come. There’s far more after the Marriage Supper of the Lamb than came before.
Seventh, while the bride didn’t prepare the party, she did prepare herself. All the parables and teaching make clear that we are responsible for ensuring we are in the right spiritual place to enjoy this eternal party and relationship.
How Do We Wait for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?
We make sure we’re ready. We don’t – and can’t – know the time or moment of the return of Christ (Matthew 24:36). Therefore, we should live in a constant state of spiritual readiness. This is not something we can put off. We can’t wait until later, as the foolish virgins found out. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). We aren’t promised tomorrow (James 4:13-14).
What does it mean to prepare ourselves? Despite our modern resistance to this idea, there is a moral component. People who practice certain things will not enter or inherit the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), and even Revelation lists those that aren’t invited to the party (Revelation 21:8).
The core isn’t simply a moral system, however. The world is full of those. God doesn’t want us to live in sin, and his solution is something that works, something much deeper than trying to live according to a standard, as right and good as it is. We need something much deeper.
We must repent and be found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 20:15). Looking at the foolish virgins, they ran out of oil, which is symbolic of anointing, the Holy Spirit, and light. We hear the voice of God and have relationship, oneness, and power to live right through the Holy Spirit. We must remember to continually remind ourselves of this truth, or else we live according to our own strength. Our own strength leads to destruction.
Paul contrasts the flesh and spirit in Romans 8: There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but the Spirit.
The secret to escaping condemnation (and, more importantly, being in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb) is to stay in Christ, walking by the Spirit. If we stick with Jesus and walk with the Holy Spirit, we will, by nature, fulfill that moral standard.
Let us spur one another on to that singular mindset and relationship. The party’s going to be worth it.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/BrianAJackson