The story of humanity as we know it started with a wedding and it ends with a wedding.
When God created Eve, He ‘brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.” For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:22-24).
When Jesus was questioned about the validity of divorce, He referred to the covenant of marriage and concluded with a direct quote from the Genesis text; He said,”Haven’t you read, … that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”To this day many traditional wedding ceremonies include a solemn warning by the minister that man should not seek to separate what God has joined together.
Revelation 19:7-9 points us to the wedding that is to take place at the very end of time;
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” This is a reference to the climax of the ages when the church in heaven and the church on earth join together in joyful wedding celebration with the Lord Jesus Christ. But, to understand the analogy, we have to know something about the wedding customs of the Jews when the book of Revelation was written.
Some background on weddings in Jesus’ day
When a boy reached puberty his parents would set about finding him a suitable wife. The villages were mostly very small and often the parents would have to select a bride from some other town in the vicinity. When they found a suitable candidate they would enter into negotiations with her parents and agree on a dowry, and if the groom to be was old enough he would accompany them to meet his future wife. The girl would often still be very young and so years would sometimes pass before she reached maturity, yet all the while she and her intended spouse would be regarded as betrothed (engaged). The girl would learn the arts of home keeping from her mother and extended family, and the young man would busy himself with building an extension to his father’s house which would become the home for him and his wife. When the time of the wedding approached, the groom’s parents would prepare a wedding feast. They would send out invitations to both family’s relatives and close friends and sometimes, if they were well off, they would prepare wedding garments to be given to each guest. When the time of the wedding approached, the bride’s household would be in an ecstasy of excitement with the young woman’s friends getting her ready for the big occasion. Everyone knew when the wedding preparations had been completed because the groom’s father regularly sent messengers to the bride’s town to keep them up to date with what was happening. However, nobody but the groom’s father knew the exact day and time that the wedding feast would start. At the time of his choosing, he would instruct his son to go and fetch his bride and the young man would set off with his friends and relatives, dancing and singing mightily. News would reach the bride’s town that her husband was on his way, her friends and family would gather around her, and together they would go out of the town gates to meet the wedding procession. The two parties would come together with great celebration and together they would walk to the groom’s father’s house for the wedding feast. Then the party would begin! Sometimes it would be for just a couple of days, but if the groom’s family were relatively wealthy it could last for up to a week. The groom and his bride would ratify the contract previously made between their respective families, they would pledge allegiance to each other in the sight of God, and they would go off to the bridal chamber to consummate the marriage… and all the while the festivities would continue.
I am giving you a lot of detail because without it you might miss some of the wonder of how the wedding feast was symbolic of what will happen at the end of time – the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to planet earth, the home of His intended bride to ‘negotiate’ a future wedding. He, of course, didn’t arrive in a chariot of fire, but instead He entered this world as we all do, through natural birth. He did not demand a dowry, but instead He paid the redemption price for her freedom to marry him and He signed the contract with his own shed blood. When telling his disciples that he was soon to leave them He used these words; “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3). He also used the wedding imagery on more than one occasion to describe the reality of his kingdom. For instance, Matthew 25:1-13 records the story Jesus told of the foolish friends of the bride who were not ready when the groom came at an unexpected hour. Again, in Matthew 22:1-14 we have his story of the wedding where the invited guests did not respond and so the father of the groom invited all and sundry and made them acceptable by giving them pure wedding garments to wear.
God the Father selected a bride for his son from humanity, betrothed them, and then waited for her to mature. Two thousand years have passed and now, at last the bride, the church, has reached maturity and is ready for the consummation of the ages. She has not reached maturity because of her holiness and perfection here on earth, but because she is complete in number. You see, every time a disciple of Jesus, a member of his church, dies then that person is perfected, made holy and joins the ever growing Bride of Christ … in heaven.
Now this is where things get ‘mysterious’ and you will need to allow me some latitude in trying to explain what I think is to happen relatively soon.
The church on earth is referred to as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians 4:12), the body of the groom. However, in Revelation 21:2 it is the ‘church’ in heaven that is described as a bride ‘coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband’. So, in this sense, the church on earth is the ‘body’ of the groom and the church in heaven constitutes the bride. Jesus himself leads the bridal procession from heaven when the time of the wedding has come and as He does so the church on earth, the ‘mystery’ groom rises to meet the procession. Paul describes this time-terminating event with the words, ‘we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At that time God judges the living and the dead, destroys this present world with fire, and recreates a new HeavenEarth as His eternal dwelling place. Figuratively, the groom and the bride join together as this re-creation occurs and then proceed to the new HeavenEarth, the home of the Triune God. The church on earth and the church in heaven become one, as in the consummation of bride and groom, and the wedding feast commences and lasts not for seven days, or a thousand years, but forever, and ever!