Jesus 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