Important Bible Verses
As a child I often heard the church referred to as the Bride of Christ. It was one of those analogies that I read and heard, but didn't really understand because I was a child. As I grew up, I began to realize that this is the perfect analogy for the body of Christ (the group of people that will ascend to Heaven). Not only does the analogy lend to answer a many of questions, Revelation mimics a Jewish wedding ceremony and our relationship with Christ really does resemble that of a bride and her husband.
Who is the Bride of Christ?
For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
A Relationship with Jesus
To illustrate how grand this analogy is, we're going to compare an everyday, earthly relationship with our spiritual relationship.
As a child, marriage is something you just assume will happen, and love is some magical force that just appears. It's hard to understand this analogy without a little life experience—at least experiencing your first crush. Do you remember the days of crushes? Remember the way you felt, when you found out a guy you barely spoke to, but admired from a far, knew your name? It's something so small, but it made your whole day when he addressed you by your name. Maybe you got butterflies in the pit of your stomach or fell prey to one of those telltale "you-light-up-my-life" smiles. You remember that feeling don't you? Let's call this guy "Steve" for the rest of the post.
That overwhelming and giddy feeling, that's how we feel when we meet Christ for the first time. The moment we learn that despite our lowly status, despite our sinful past, and despite our imperfections, Jesus still knows who we are. Out of the billions of people that are currently alive, and the countless people that have already lived and died, Jesus still knows us by name.
A Conscious Decision
Once, a friend of mine asked what was so great about faith. He couldn't see why faith should be our ticket to salvation and Heaven because he didn't see faith as having any value. Faith is the reciprocated love we all desire.
Think about Steve. It's great that Steve knows your name; it means he knows you exist. However, you aren't satisfied with Steve simply knowing you exist, you want him to like you the way you like him. You want him to be just as happy to see you as you are to see him. What we desire, is reciprocated feelings. It's not enough that Steve is always nice to us.
Just as we can't be satisfied with Steve merely going through the motions of being nice to to us, God isn't satisfied with us simply being nice people. He wants us to choose him, just like we want Steve to choose us.
Phase I: the Courtship
We can't skip from crush to marriage just because Steve chooses us, though. There has to be a period where we get know each other, where we date, and talk about our ideals. There has to be a mature relationship that bonds a couple before either can contemplate the "L"-word (love) or marriage. During this time you and Steve would probably go see a movie together, have dinner at some of your favorite restaurants. You'd enjoy some of your favorite hobbies together—perhaps you'll go to sporting events or museums, concerts or amusement parks. You'll have a good time together, and start to share more intimate details of your life. Steve will tell you about how he's afraid he won't live up to his parent's expectations, and you'll confide in Steve that you can't have kids because of an accident a long time ago (note: these are just random scenarios).
The same is true with our relationship with Christ. Once we choose Him, He goes with us wherever we go—to the movies, to football games, to our art class. He begins to influence how we see these activities, and shares with us His favorite activities. As we pray, we choose to reveal more of our soul to God. Yes, He already knows our soul, but He wants us to think enough of Him to choose to share it with Him. Steve knows you're going to get into Harvard Law, because he knows you're smart and have a great work ethic; but Steve doesn't want to receive confirmation via a mass announcement on Facebook, he wants to know that when you were so excited you couldn't contain yourself, he was the first one you called to tell the news. Likewise, you'd want the same from Steve. God wants to be the first thing on your mind when you wake up, and the last thing on your mind when you fall asleep at night.
Steve has told you he loves you, and you've told Steve you love him, but one day, he'll attempt to show you how much he loves you through a planned series of events that end with a ring, a question, and hopefully your answer of "yes." This is one of the most special moments in a relationship. There's the vulnerability of the proposer putting his whole heart out there to be embraced or utterly crushed, as well as, the excitement of knowing that someone is choosing to put up with you for the rest of your life. It's usually meticulously planned, and I've never met anyone who doesn't remember that moment.
Jesus popped the question to us on the cross. He came, He ministered, and then He offered Himself to us unconditionally when He died for our sins. That was our diamond ring to show off to the world. For His disciples, He didn't have to wait long for an answer, but with us, He's been waiting approximately 2000 years for us to say "yes." The night before Jesus' crucifixion, He stays awake in prayer and is irritated that the disciples won't stay awake to keep watch with him. This is the night before jitters of a man proposing to His bride. Most people propose with the expectation that the other person will say yes (you'd be quite strange if you proposed knowing they would say no), but Jesus knew that only a fraction of us would accept His offer. He knew that He would experience great suffering (physically and emotionally), along with great joy. Thankfully, He still made the decision to go through with His proposal.
Phase II: Fiancée Status
Most people assume that your relationship begins with Christ the day you are saved. Which makes this analogy seem a little off, right? Jesus proposed to us 2000 years ago, there was no courtship, we just jumped to saying yes. That's not quite how it works. No one is saved the first time they hear Jesus' name. I was not saved as an infant or as a toddler coloring Bible pictures during the sermon. I had no idea what was going on, I just knew they gave me crayons at the church so I didn't mind going. Even as I became older and understood what I was taking part in, I didn't fully understand Jesus' sacrifice. I may have understood and chosen Him in middle school, but I didn't really commit to that decision until much later.
After saying yes around 12 years old, I realized I didn't actually know as much about God as I thought. The Bible is over 783,137[1a] words, after all. The more I read the closer I become to God, but also the more I let go of worldly behavior. It's not an instantaneous switch; I didn't decide I loved Jesus at 9am and throw away my Eminem CDs at 9:05am. It took time for me to adjust to my new status as "fiancée of Christ."
Similarly, when you become engaged to Steve, your behavior will have to change. You can't go to the club with your girls every weekend anymore. Your life is now centered around you and Steve. You now owe it to Steve to talk to him before making major life decisions. You and Steve will have to decide where to live and what kind of house to live in. Now that you've chosen, your decisions concerning everything else reflect your choice to be faithful to Steve.
We are told in Revelation 19 the marriage supper of The Lamb occurs during the end times. This is the ceremony that makes everything final; after the marriage Jesus will make His judgements and those of us who are part of His body (just as Eve was part of Adam's body), will be married and presented with New Jerusalem. Heaven will be the everlasting honeymoon.
Answers to Other Questions
People often think belief in Christ absolves them from the law; they think they don't have to try to uphold God's standards because they can be forgiven by Christ. I talked about this issue from a Biblical standpoint in "The Law," but here, I want to answer it using the fact that we are the Bride of Christ. Imagine that you have married Steve from the above example. Steve says he loves you, but he keeps cheating on you with other women. Do you believe Steve loves you? Steve says he loves you, but he never talks to you; he goes to work then comes home and watches TV. Do you feel like Steve loves you? Steve says he loves you, but when you ask him to do something, he always complains. Do you feel loved? Again, Steve says he loves you, but he doesn't talk about you in public, he doesn't wear his wedding band, and tries to minimize your existence when you're out. Do you think he really cares about you? How long are you going to stick around?
People do these things to Jesus all the time, under the guise of "being forgiven." Jesus is not happy when you deny him to go get drunk with your friends, or when you jump through hoops to avoid being called a "Bible thumper." Jesus isn't ok with you flirting with idols and sorcery; He doesn't want you praying to your friend's Buddha "out of respect" or bowing down to statues of Mary... You belong to Him, and Him alone. Jesus wants you to talk to Him, to choose to share your day and your passions with Him. He wants you to include Him in your hobbies and activities. When you're out with your friends, He wants you to boldly declare your love for Him—whether that's taking the time to bless your food, or passing up an opportunity that goes against Him. God wants you to act like the Bride of Christ.
References and Footnotes
- Bible Facts and Statistics. Amazing Bible Timeline with World History. 2015 a. This number is for the King James Version, other versions will vary.
- "What is the marriage supper of the Lamb?". GotQuestions.org. 2015
- Swanson, Bill. “Marriage Supper of the Lamb". Life Hope & Truth. 2015
- "Marriage Supper: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb". Discover Revelation.2015
- "The Marriage Feast of the Lamb: Jewish wedding customs and Yeshua’s return. The Yeshua Army. June 2012