post

A BRIDE FOR THE GROOM: The Missing Person in the Culture Wars About Marriage

bride of the lambJesus made the jarring statement that in the age to come marriage among humans would come to an end: “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” What circumstances could possibly bring about the cessation of a long history of marriage among men and women?

The answer is that after the resurrection a marriage will take place between Jesus Christ and His Bride – the marriage supper of the Lamb. All of history has been moving toward the consummation of Christ’s marriage to His Bride – believers from every people group on the earth. When this happens, human marriage, which from the beginning was a prefiguring of Christ and His Body, will find its fulfillment and termination. When the reality comes, you no longer need the picture. Yes, believers are married to Christ by faith in this age. But the Lord has designed this age as a time of “firstfruits,” and thus we long for the “harvest” of  the future consummation of the Groom with Bride. In a New Heaven and New Earth faith will become sight, and the presence of sin will be absent.

In recent years, the rhetoric about the issues surrounding the definition of marriage has heated up. Emotions  seem to run very high among those advocating the various options they believe to be correct. This issue dominates the social media, and has divided religious denominations.

But as I survey the strong words expressed by all opinions – including those who advocate traditional marriage – I am driven to conclude that something of monumental significance is absent in all the argumentation. Not so much “something,” but some One. Human marriage does not occur in a vacuum, but only has meaning because of its connection to Father’s eternal purpose in His Son, Jesus Christ. Donald Grey Barnhouse pointed out in 1965, we should not be like “the person who takes some text by itself and attempts to build a doctrine on it,” but rather “if everything is fiitted into the whole divine plan [then] the full-rounded, eternal purpose begins to be seen.”

Consider this. The Scriptures begin in Genesis with a wedding, and conclude in Revelation with a marriage. The narrative in between is peppered with marriages that led up to the birth of the Groom who would seek a Bride.

In Genesis, the first Adam carried a bride inside of him. Adam was created as “male and female.” Eve was taken out of his side. This picture would be fulfilled when the Last Adam, Christ, would carry a bride in His side. Just as Adam and Eve were joined together, so Christ and His Bride become one flesh, like branches joined to the vine.

When Paul spoke about marriage in Ephesians 5, he gave this astounding revelation: earthly marriage is designed in the Lord’s purpose to point to the reality of the heavenly marriage of Christ and His Bride.

 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the Ekklesia.

This is the crucial perspective that is missing in all the rhetoric about marriage in our day. Marriage only has meaning when it is seen as connected to Jesus and His Bride. Have you heard anyone start with the “profound mystery” as a foundation for discussing marriage? To talk about it as a “divine institution” to be perpetuated, as a necessary way to hold society together, or as a product of evolutionary social forces is to take it utterly out of context and pervert how the Lord views human marriage.

Just as the Scriptures began with a marriage, so they end in the book of Revelation with a marriage that all of history was moving toward. “I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband . . . . Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb . . . . Blessed are those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

From Father’s viewpoint, the earthly union of a man and woman is not about traditional marriage, or same-sex civil ceremonies, or polygamy, or anything else. It is about His purpose to secure a Bride for His Son. There is a missing Person in the debate about marriage, and that is Jesus Christ. If you leave Him out of the discourse, then there is nothing to discuss.All the alternatives to a man and woman becoming one flesh are shown to be wrong for the simple reason that they contradict and are out of sync with the “profound mystery”of Christ and His Bride portrayed in earthly marriage. 

Well-meaning people are trying to engage the topic of marriage without seeing it as an earthly portrayal of the future wedding supper of Christ and His Ekklesia. If Christ is all in all, then marriage can only be considered properly when He has the pre-eminence. If the “profound mystery” is not the spring board, then all you have is a social institution that is left up for grabs by those with the power to get votes or control policy.

Paul could not talk about human marriage without seeing it as pointing to a far greater reality, a “profound mystery.” Jesus saw marriage as temporary, ending when the last-day resurrection takes place and the marriage supper of the Lamb is inaugurated. Does this revelation shape our approach to earthly marriage?

– Jon Zens, May, 2015

Share

Comments

  1. Jon,

    Beautifully put brother! Thanks so much for being a faithful steward of the Lord’s great Mystery!

  2. Lindy J. Combs says:

    Jon, this is truly a “voice” in a dark wilderness. Profound and pure truth. I love it.
    ~ Lindy

  3. Thank you, Jon
    AMEN and AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Jon, this is truly awesome! When I started reading it, the penny dropped and I said out loud, “of-course!” Of course marriage ends when the shadow and type ends, and truth and reality come into fullness! This a wonderful, wonderful piece of writing brother, and comes at a time when the Lord is leading our group to explore the correlations between the traditional Jewish wedding of Jesus’ day and Christ and His bride. I will be thrilled to share this with the saints here! Thank you Jon.

  5. Thanks Jon for the reminder. One of our brothers and sisters are going to renew their vows this summer. This is a great reminder of the beauty of Christ and His bride. Thanks again.

  6. Beautifully put! So many times we forget this very fact. We would rather make marriage about tax breaks and health care benefits, rather than an expression of Christ and His church. The only way for an earthly marriage to succeed is to understand this very principle, and to keep Christ as the head in this earthly marriage, so that it can be a full expression of Him to the world around us.

  7. Roy Alexander says:

    Wow. This is heavy stuff. Simple enough and true, but how often do we in our pomp expect everything to be the same in the resurrection with just sin absent. In Christ there is no male or female, so how could there be marriage in the earthly sense? When we become adsorbed into the “all in all” who is the Lord Jesus Christ, what is “me” and what is “you”? We will truly be “One” in Christ, so then what does “one another” mean in such a context? The Self willing Self is gone, so what remains of “me”? Esoteric questions which won’t mean anything once we are there.
    there are even deeper implications. To fallen man the Self is “everything”. As some say “self actualization” . Ah but he who seeks to find his life will lose it, and he who loses his life finds it in Him, but most of us don’t really get what that means. For me at least, cleansed of my selfishness and not much is left! But what is left is part of a greater whole perhaps with no consciousness of self. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has given man a warped sense of importance. So Rejoice and be glad, we won’t figure it out. Just Trust that whatever LIFE is, it is good as He is Good. Thanks for the enlightenment. Grace & Peace!

  8. Roy Alexander says:

    Thanks Jon: This brings up a whole host of issues about what life after our resurrection will be like. When we are subsumed into Christ, What will “one another” mean? What will any of our present relationships be? Christ being All and in all, will anything else matter?
    All the popular talk about being reunited in heaven may be just that , popular talk with no truth. Since we will no longer be connected to our most significant other we will be connected to Christ. any other relationship pales in comparison. If we take the body analogy, my body parts have no self awareness, only Roy awareness. So in Christ we lose our self life and gain His self life. We are not conscious of one another, only of Him. This is so freeing and fascinating. The fallen self still wants to be “god” and the center of all. This makes no sense in Christ, since He is center and is All.

    Wow

    Grace & Peace

    Roy

    • Roy, you raise some great questions. Being in a situation after the resurrection where there is “no sin, no curse” is so radically different from what we experience in “this age.” It would seem to me that Christ will be all in all in a way that enhances, not obliterates, our relationships with believers gathered from all over the world. The picture of being at a feast where Christ serves those who are sitting with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob implies that we will be with people who have names. How this all works out, we must confess, is beyond our comprehension!

  9. Marlene says:

    Amen!! AMEN!!!!!

  10. Jeni Zortman says:

    Jon, did Dotty show you the Theology of The Body videos? This is exactly the point! Love you, brother!

  11. Thomas Snyder says:

    I saw a sign, once, outside of a church meeting place that said, “Church is a place where you can go and be with old friends that you’ve never met before.” ignoring the implication of church as a building, I can say I’ve experienced this. The church will have its first meeting with 100% attendance on THAT DAY and we will get to enjoy this experience on an infinite scale.

  12. David Roland says:

    Jon………Dealing with this issue within the extended family. I was happy to read another take on this worldly issue. GREAT JOB! Thank you SO much!

  13. Mike kesselring says:

    Hey brother! It’s Mike Kesselring from the church in Gainesville.
    Thanks for writing this- well-spoken and points me to Jesus in this matter.
    Love you brother!

  14. Jon…Help me understand as I may not be reading this part correctly. “All the alternatives to a man and woman becoming one flesh are shown to be wrong for the simple reason that they contradict and are out of sync with the “profound mystery”of Christ and His Bride portrayed in earthly marriage.” My primary question is are you making an argument here FOR traditional marriage based on gender – male and female as the only representation of marriage between Christ and the Church? The reason I am asking is that the overall tone points to the fact that the gender of the relationship is irrelevant. Please clarify as I am unclear. Overall, I appreciate the point you are making here but need some clarity.

    • Jaime — Yes, I am saying that the Christ/Bride reality, of which Adam (male)/Eve (female) were the earthly picture, is only fulfilled on earth by a male leaving mother & father and cleaving to a female. This benchmark then reveals why other sexual unions are wrong. (These points have no bearing on the option of singleness).

    • Glenda McLachlan says:

      The gender question is answered in the bible, of course marriage is only for a man and woman.
      However with Christ after this earthly experience, this will not be an issue because it will not be about gender. Don’t try to read same sex into this great insightful thought provoking writing. Earthly marriage is to be between one man and one woman. End of story.

  15. Jon,
    well said brother!

  16. Cindy Westlake says:

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks so much for this reminder. I forget that, while we live with eternity inside us in CHRIST, we are not in our ultimate habitat where we will live in unbroken fellowship with JESUS face to face. HE has so much more for us and for HIMSELF in that union to come. I am so blessed with an amazing husband that loves the LORD passionately and so it’s easy to be satisfied with just this. It’s so helpful to be reminded that this is but an image of what is to come.

  17. Well said. The church has a lot to answer for. For us to be in this cultural state we have not been the salt and light we should have been. People don’t understand what marriage truly is, so how can they make a decent decision regarding it?

    • The “church” does have a lot to answer for. For me, however, most of what must be answered for relates to what goes on in church buildings, not what goes on among “outsiders.”

  18. Lorena Wood says:

    You say: “When Paul spoke about marriage in Ephesians 5, he gave this astounding revelation: earthly marriage is designed in the Lord’s purpose to point to the reality of the heavenly marriage of Christ and His Bride.” I like this, of course it leads me to ask, Is the Church and esp. marrieds in the Church, pointing to Christ in their marriage? Do they see that the reason they are to be together is to Glorify Christ and make Him know? It reminds me of all the scriptures which talk about divorce and how it was only “given/allowed” because our hearts were hard. God isn’t going to divorce His Church but has the Church and those in the body lived in such a way as to give Glory to God by and in there marriages? I don’t think so, and that reflects poorly on God.

Speak Your Mind

*