It is marvellous how the Holy Spirit hath enshrined in the Scriptures the Bridal relation of the Church and her Lord. It is revealed to the spiritual mind in the most unexpected places. It is foreshadowed in the Old Testament in the story of Isaac and Rebekah. Doubtless many readers of the Bible have wondered why the "SONG OF SOLOMON" was ever included among the books of the Old Testament. Upon the first reading it appears as only a love song of Solomon for one of the many women that he loved. But a careful study of the Song reveals the fact that it is an inspired song of the love of the Church of Christ during His absence in the Heavenlies. The Song describes a maiden of Shulam, a Galilean town some 5 miles south of Mt. Tabor, who was taken from her home to one of Solomon's palaces, probably in the Lebanon district, where Solomon tries to win her love. She had lived with her mother, but her brothers had treated her cruelly and made her the keeper of the vineyards until her skin was so tanned that she spoke of herself as "BLACK BUT COMELY," and had not kept the vineyard of her own beauty, and her brothers even went so far as to speak disparagingly of her character. But there was one, a shepherd, who loved and believed in her, and whose love she returned with the most intense passion. At times Solomon visited her and sought to win her away from her beloved, but she would not listen to him. During the day she would talk to herself of her lover and imagine she heard his voice calling, and during the night she dreamt of him and imagined she was walking the streets of the city hunting for him. At times she bursts out in rapturous praise of her lover's beauty, then she calls him in loving tones. At last she escapes and finds her lover and they are seen approaching from the meadows happy in each other's love.
What a beautiful picture we have here of the love of the True Church for her absent Lord. The Church is held captive in this world and is being constantly solicited by the offers of wealth and splendor to withdraw her love from Immanuel, her Shepherd Lover, who is feeding His flock in Paradise, and give her heart to her Solomonic lovers, and consort with the kings and governments of the world, as does her sister the Harlot Church. But she cannot give her Heavenly Lover up. At times she is sorely tempted, then she sees Him with the eye of faith, and dreams of Him as spiritually present, and she is ravished by the vision of His beauty. Then suddenly He vanishes, and she is alone again carrying on the conflict with the world that tries to cast its spell upon her, and offers her its glories if she will only forsake her Shepherd Lover. But while the temptation is great her love never wavers, for she sees
the time approaching when she shall be caught away from the earth to meet her Shepherd Lover on the plains of Paradise.
The "Marriage of the Lamb" was one of the themes that Jesus loved to dwell on. In the Parable of the "Ten Virgins" He tells how the Virgins went out to meet the Bridegroom, and the unpreparedness of some of them to meet Him. And in the Parable of the "Marriage of the King's Son" (Matt. 22:1-14), He prophetically refers to it, and gives us a foreview of it, and in the verses now under consideration He describes its consummation, saying--"Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to Him, for the 'MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB' is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. 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. And he saith unto me, write--"BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH ARE CALLED UNTO THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB."
Notice that it does not say the "Marriage of the BRIDE," but the "Marriage of the LAMB." That grand event will be not so much the consummation of the hopes of the Bride, as it will be the consummation of the PLAN OF GOD FOR HIS SON, arranged for before the Foundation of the World. Eph. 1:4.
The "Marriage of the Lamb" is the consummation of the joy of Christ AS A MAN. It would not have been possible if Christ had not been born IN THE FLESH. Otherwise it would have been the union of dissimilar natures, for the Bride is of human origin. This is why Jesus took His HUMAN NATURE back with Him to glory, and today we have in Heaven the MAN Christ Jesus. 1. Tim. 2:5.
While the Bride was chosen for Him before the Foundation of the World, the "Espousal" could not take place until after Christ assumed humanity, and so it was not until after Christ's incarnation that Paul could say--"I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have ESPOUSED you to one husband, that I may present you as a CHASTE VIRGIN to Christ. 2. Cor. 11:2. There have been many long betrothals in which the betrothed have been faithful to their vows until the long wait has ended in a happy marriage, but the longest this world has ever heard of is that of Christ waiting for His Bride the Church. He has been waiting now for nearly 1900 years, but He will not have to wait much longer. Soon the sleeping Church shall hear the cry--"BEHOLD THE BRIDEGROOM COMETH, GO YE OUT TO MEET HIM," and Heaven will re-sound with the cry--"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him, for the MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB IS COME." Rev. 19:7. Ordinarily the most interest in a wedding clusters around the bride, but the intimation in Scripture is, that the most interest at the "Marriage of the Lamb" will centre around the BRIDEGROOM. If there is joy in Heaven in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, and that joy is the joy of the FATHER, how much greater will be the joy of the FATHER when He shall behold the consummation of His plan for His Son in His Marriage to His Bride the Church. There have been many royal weddings of international interest where the invited guests and spectators witnessed
a spectacle magnificent in its appointments, and rejoiced in a union that bound together different nations. But the Wedding of the Lamb and His Bride will surpass them all, for it shall unite Heaven and Earth in a bond that shall never be broken.
Let us now look at the "Marriage of the Lamb" more in detail. Let us ask and try to answer some of the questions that relate to it. Most Biblical Expositors take it for granted that the subject is so familiar to Bible students that it needs no explanation, and so they do not dwell upon it, but this is not so. These difficulties will appear as we try to answer them.
The Marriage takes place in Heaven after the "Judgment of Reward," and before the appearing of Christ with His Saints at the Revelation.
The character of the ceremony or who shall perform it (though doubtless it will be God the Father Himself), and what vows the Bridegroom and Bride will take, is not disclosed, but that there will be a ceremony of some kind that no divorce or separation can break, cannot be questioned, for there never was a legal marriage without some ceremony. Of one thing we are certain that there is no one to give away the Bride, for Christ presents her to Himself a "GLORIOUS CHURCH, not having SPOT, or WRINKLE, or any SUCH THING." Eph. 5:25-27.
To this question there can be but one answer. The "Bridegroom" is the King's SON of the Parable of the "Marriage of the King's Son" (Matt. 22:1-14), or JESUS, spoken of here as the LAMB. John the Baptist spoke of Christ as the "BRIDEGROOM," and of himself as the "Friend" of the Bridegroom who rejoiced to hear His voice. John 3:29. Jesus also represented Himself as the "Bridegroom," saying--"Can the 'Children of the Bride-chamber' mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them." Matt. 9:15. And in the Parable of the "Ten Virgins" Jesus refers to Himself as the "Bridegroom." Matt. 25:1-10. The Bridegroom then is Christ.
Here there is a difference of opinion. Some claim that the "Bride," because she is called "WIFE" in Rev. 19:7, is ISRAEL, because in the Old Testament God calls Himself the HUSBAND of Israel. Isa. 54:5. Those who advocate this view claim that "Wife" is the earthly name of Israel, and "Bride" the Heavenly. Some hold that because Isaac's bride was taken from his own kin, that, therefore, to complete the type, Jesus' Bride must be Israel, His own kin, and not the Church composed mainly of Gentiles. But we must not forget that while Abraham was the first Hebrew his kin were Gentiles. Abraham was not, strictly speaking, a Jew, for the Jews are the descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob or Israel. So we see that Rebekah was not an Israelite, but a Gentile, so the type holds good.
We must not forget that there are "Two Brides" mentioned in the Scriptures. One in the Old Testament, and the other in the New. The one in the Old Testament is Israel, the Bride of Jehovah; the one in the New Testament is the Church, the Bride of Christ. Of Israel it is said--"Thy Maker is Thine husband." Isa. 54:5-8. Because of her Whoredoms, Israel is a cast off WIFE, but God, her husband, promises to take her back when she ceases from her adulteries. Jer. 3:1-18; Ez. 16:1-63; Hosea 2:1-23; 3:1-5. She will not be taken back as a Virgin, but as a WIFE. But it is a VIRGIN that the Lamb (Christ) is to marry. So the Wife (Israel) of the Old Testament cannot be the BRIDE (Virgin) of the New Testament. Again the Wife (Israel) is to reside in the earthly Jerusalem during the Millennium, while the BRIDE (the Church) will reside in the New Jerusalem. These distinctions make it clear that Israel cannot be the "Bride" of Christ. We must remember that John did not call the bride--WIFE, until Rev. 21:9, which was after the marriage, when she was no longer Bride but WIFE.
The Bride of the Lamb is from a disowned and outcast race, made so by the disobedience of the head of that race in the Garden of Eden, but the Bridegroom saw her and loved her. To redeem her He came from His own lovely home in Heaven to her sin-cursed home on earth, where He was rejected by members of her family, and seized and subjected to a mock trial and nailed to a cross as a malefactor, where He laid down voluntarily His life for her, thus demonstrating His love, and opening up the way for her redemption from the Law that held her in bondage. He then left her to return to His Father's House to prepare a home for her, and during the period of her betrothal He has left her with her own family, simply sending the Holy Spirit to teach and protect her, and fit her for the day of her marriage, when He will descend into midair to meet her on her way to the BRIDAL HALLS OF HEAVEN. 1. Thess. 4:16-17.
Many assume that the "Bride" is composed of all the saints from Abel down to the time of the taking out of the Church, but this can-not be so, for the Church did not exist until the Day of Pentecost, and only those who live and die in Christ between Pentecost and the taking out of the Church belong to the Church.
We are told in verse 7, that she hath "made herself ready," and in verse 8, that it was permitted her to be "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; which is the righteousness of saints," and in chapter 21:2, she is described as--"prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." The fact that the "fine linen" in which the Bride is clothed is called not the "righteousness of Christ," but the "righteousness-es (plural) of SAINTS, makes it clear that it is not the "imputed righteousness" of Christ that is meant, and that the "Wedding Garment" in the Parable of the "Marriage of the King's Son" stands for, but the righteous acts and works of the saints themselves.
Where does the Church thus clothe herself and when? It is certain that she does not thus clothe herself on earth, for we must
not forget that the Bride does not put on her wedding robes until after she has been tried at the Judgment Seat of Christ, where all her "false works" will have been consumed by fire (1. Cor. 3:11-15), and it is this "Fiery Judgment" that Peter refers to as the "TRIAL OF FAITH" which--"being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the APPEARING OF JESUS CHRIST." 1. Pet. 1:7. The "righteousnesses" then of the Saints will be their righteous acts and works that will come out of the "fiery test" of the Judgment of Reward, and be found unto PRAISE and HONOR and GLORY at the "APPEARING" of Jesus Christ; and these shall make up the beautiful wedding garments in which the Saints shall be clothed. What a contrast there will be between the purple and scarlet colored dress, and jewel bedecked person of the "Harlot Wife" of Antichrist, and the spotless white robe of fine linen of the "Bride" of the Lamb.
It is not the wedding itself. The "Marriage Feast" is the supper that follows after the Marriage has been solemnized. There is one thing about this Feast it will be such an honor to receive an invitation, and to be present, that the angel said to John, "WRITE," put it down in black and white lest you forget, do not trust to tradition lest the world never hear about it, but--"WRITE, BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH ARE CALLED UNTO THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB." What a supper it will be. As a Feast, the Feasts of Belshazzar and Ahasuerus will be but a poor meal in comparison. It is called a "Supper" in contrast with the supper mentioned in the seventeenth verse of the same chapter, where the fowls of the air are invited to gather themselves together unto the "SUPPER OF THE GREAT GOD, that they may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit upon them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great." Rev. 19:17-18.
Here again there is a difference of opinion. It is clear that the Guests are not the Bride, at least this is true as to earthly weddings. The Bride would not be "called" or "invited" to the Wedding, she has a place there of her own right and there could be no wedding without her. Some hold that the "Virgins" in the Parable of the "Ten Virgins" are not the "Bride" but simply "Bridesmaids"; and that those invited to the "Marriage Supper" of the King's Son, are simply "Guests" and do not constitute the "Bride." But as both of these Parables do not mention the Bride, and are "Kingdom of Heaven" Parables, which describe the character of this Gospel Dispensation, and have a double significance, we are led to believe that the "Wise Virgins" and the Guests who possessed a "Wedding Garment" are intended to represent the BRIDE, because they represent true believers, and true believers constitute the Church, and the Church and the Bride are one and the same.
But there will be "Guests," for as all the dead in Christ shall rise and be present at the "Marriage of The Lamb," and as only those who are saved from Pentecost to the taking out of the Church, belong to the Church (The Bride), there will be present as "GUESTS" the Old Testament Saints, such as Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Job, Moses, David, the Prophets, and even John the Baptist who claimed to be only the "Friend" of the Bridegroom. Then there will be the "Blood Washed Multitude" that come out of the Tribulation after the Church has been caught out. Thus we see that the righteous of all the past Ages and Dispensations, and all the Saints of God who shall be worthy, and who are not included in the Bride (The Church), will be "Guests" at the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb." Angels will be "spectators" of the scene but they cannot be "Guests," for that honor is reserved for only those who have been redeemed by the "Blood of the Lamb."
What happens at earthly weddings after the supper? The guests make merry among themselves. Often there is music and dancing, and then the Bridegroom and the Bride change their wedding garments for a travelling dress, and steal away on their wedding trip. Generally this is to some pleasure resort or place that they have never seen. Often it is a trip across the ocean to some distant land. Sometimes it is a visit to the old home of the Bridegroom or the Bride. So after the "Marriage of the Lamb" the Heavenly Bridegroom will take His Bride on a wedding trip, and to what more suit-able place can they go than back to the old home of the Bride, this earth. The place where the Bridegroom suffered and died to purchase her redemption with His own precious blood. The place where her people rejected Him, and despised His Royal claims. Then He will show them that He was no imposter, that He was what He claimed to be, the Son of God. He will then set up His Earthly Kingdom, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the "THRONE OF DAVID," and His Bride (The Church) shall reign with Him for a THOUSAND YEARS. Oh what a sweet and delightful "HONEY-MOON" that will be, when, during that long "Millennial Reign" the earth shall be blessed with the presence of the King of Kings and His Consort--THE CHURCH. But that long "Honey-Moon" will end, not for the Bridegroom and the Bride, but for the Earth, by the return of the Bridegroom and the Bride to the Father's House. Then after the Earth has had its "Baptism of Fire," they will return with the descent of the "Holy City" to abide on the "New Earth" forever. So enraptured was John by the Revelation that he says--"I fell at his (the angel's) feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the Testimony of Jesus is the SPIRIT OF PROPHECY." That is, all prophecy testifies of Jesus.