It is always exciting to receive a wedding invitation – except, perhaps, for those who are in the costly years of their mid-twenties, where friends seem to be determined to bankrupt you by getting married at the rate of one a month. The arrival of the frilly and flowered card triggers a flurry of anticipation. Days off are booked, hats, dresses and ties are selected, gifts are purchased, and speculations arise about the character and quality of the wedding meal. The level of anticipation, however, is not equal for all who attend the wedding. For some, the day may be of relatively minor importance. For family and close friends, it will have greater significance. But for the bride and groom, the anticipation will be all-consuming, for this will be a unique and special day in their lives.
It is this mixture of excitement and anticipation that lends wedding receptions – or marriage suppers – their unique character. The waiting is over, the wedding has taken place. Now the guests can enjoy the company of the happy couple, and bride and groom can enjoy the first moments of their new relationship and their new life together.
Our appreciation of the joy of an earthly bride and groom and the shared delight of family and friends helps us, in some small way, to understand the significance of the scene that unfolds in Revelation 19. As we come toward the end of the violence, death, and judgment that have characterised the book, we exchange the shrieks of the suffering, the blasphemies of the beast, and the moans of the martyrs for a very different sound: “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 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. And he saith unto me, ‘These are the true sayings of God’ ” (Rev 19:6-9).
At this climactic point in the history of this world, the marriage of the Lamb has already taken place in heaven. Now, as He returns in conquering glory to earth, His bride accompanies Him, and the “wedding celebration of the Lamb has come” (NET). Small wonder that a triumphant tumult of praise and worship breaks forth, for this celebration has been anticipated and longed for, not just for months and years, but for millennia, and from the timeless, dateless ages of eternity. But the notes of joy do not continue unalloyed. The commencement of the marriage supper of the Lamb means joy to those blessed ones who are called to the banquet. As the millennial celebration of the marriage of the Lamb is established on earth, the nations of the earth will experience the shattering judgment of the “King of kings and Lord of lords” and the destruction of the beast, the false prophet, the kings of the earth, and their armies. Their judgment will be both short and sharp, and in the millennial bliss that ensues, the long-awaited marriage supper of the Lamb will unfold in a torrent of joy and blessing. Those who have looked and longed for this day will at last enjoy its glories, undiminished by any trace of disappointment. Blessed indeed will be those who play a part in the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Creation will revel in the celebration. Since the Fall, she has waited for this day. In the tragic aftermath of Adam’s sin, the creation “was made subject to vanity” (Rom 8:20). Since then, “the earnest expectation of the [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (v19). Now, as Christ’s bride stands forth in flawless splendor, she will be released, “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (v21).
The saints of past dispensations, too, have waited for this day. Like John the Baptist, they will be the friends of the Bridegroom (John 3:29), rejoicing in His presence and thrilling to hear His voice. From Seth onwards, those who “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and [who] were persuaded of them, and embraced them” (Heb 11:13) will swell the rejoicing of the feast as all those promises are now made good. They will be joined by the saints and martyrs of the Tribulation, their cry of “How long, O Lord?” (Rev 6:10) now silenced as they sing the praises of the Lamb.
The very purposes of God have waited for this day. The union of Christ and His Church is no time-begotten plan. Rather, its origins lie in eternity, in the heart of our God, in His love for His son, and His desire to bless mankind. We find the faintest echo of His thoughts in Abraham’s desire to find a bride for Isaac, but with worshiping wonder, we acknowledge our utter lack of capacity to appreciate the infinite joy that the marriage supper will bring to the heart of our infinite God.
Nor can we understand the joy that the celebration will bring to Christ. God has given marriage to us to help us to understand the relationship between Christ and the Church, but no earthly bridegroom has ever longed to celebrate his marriage as Christ has, or has endured for his bride what Christ suffered for His Church when “He gave Himself for it” (Eph 5:25). Now she stands, “the travail of His soul” (Isa 53:11), perfected and presented, “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing … holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25-27).
And what will it mean for the bride – for you and for me? Like Rebekah, we will have been escorted through the wilderness wondering, as the Holy Spirit unfolds the wonders of the One we long to meet. Like her, we will have met Him “on the desert way,” and gone in with Him to the marriage of the Lamb. Now, we will come with Him out of heaven, to share in His triumph and to bask in His glory as the bliss of the marriage supper unfolds before us, as a prelude to the eternal pleasures that we will enjoy forever. As we anticipate that day, may we be continually “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).