A beautiful young woman mounted a camel and traveled south from Haran to Lahai-roi. As the reddening sky darkened over the shimmering sands of the northern Negev, she listened with rapt attention to the words of the servant who traveled at her side. Throughout her days-old acquaintance with this man, he had spoken of only one subject. And yet, the subject had lost none of its charm. Far from being bored, the girl longed to hear more of the man she had never seen.
But the servant seemed less talkative now. A new, electric feeling of tension, of expectation, filled the air as again and again he broke off his discourse to scan the horizon, until, at last, with a sudden exclamation he directed Rebecca’s gaze to Isaac’s lone figure. Hastily she dismounted from her camel, covered herself with a vail, and waited breathlessly to meet her bridegroom. Both Isaac and Rebekah had longed for that meeting, but it was only the beginning, a prelude to a marriage, and a lifetime of mutual comfort and communion. “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her” (Gen 24:67). This is the first mention in Scripture of love between a husband and his wife.
The story of Isaac and Rebekah is one of the great romances of Scripture. It is, however, more than just a sweet story. Rebecca’s experience provides us with a beautiful illustration of the Church. Called to be the Bride of a Man “Whom having not seen we love,” making our way through the wilderness, learning more of Him through the self-effacing ministry of the Holy Spirit, and longing for the first sight of the One Who “comes to meet us on our desert way.” Like Rebecca, we should long for that meeting with every fiber of our being. But we, too, should remember that the meeting we anticipate so eagerly will be only the beginning. It, too, will be followed by the confirmation and consummation of eternal communion – the marriage of the Lamb.
For all its tenderness, the tale of Isaac and Rebekah is but a faint intimation of this glorious event. The Church stands at the pinnacle of God’s dealings with mankind, and the marriage of the Lamb marks the zenith of His designs for the Church. The Savior’s great intention for His Church is “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” (Eph 5:27). His love and His sacrifice have alike been directed to this great end. His eternal purpose for His bride will finally arrive at its consummation, and she will be united with Him, as a meet companion, uniquely fitted to be “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph 1:23).
Scripture does not give us a precise time point for this glorious event. It is clear, however, that it takes place before Christ’s return in glorious manifestation. “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Rev 19:7). The tense of, “is come,” demonstrates that this is an event that is already complete, a point that is confirmed by the fact that the Church is now described as Christ’s wife. This declaration forms part of the prelude to the opening of the heavens, and the riding forth of the conquering Christ (v11). Revelation 19:7, therefore, gives us an end point, before which the marriage must take place. Verse 8 of the same chapter gives us a starting point. It describes the Church as “arrayed in fine linen … [which] is the righteousness of the saints.” “Righteousness” is plural in this verse, and the idea here is “acts of the saints that have been declared righteousness.” That declaration will take place as part of the judgment of believers’ service at the bema of Christ.
The marriage of the Lamb, then, will take place somewhere in the period between the judgment seat and the manifestation of Christ. To say more than this is speculation, but it hardly seems likely that too long a gap will intervene between the bema and the marriage. It would be a strange bridegroom who wished his wedding postponed, and even the most ardent earthly love pales by comparison with the love – and the longing – of Christ for His Bride.
The timing of the event also establishes its location. Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah took place after he received her into his mother’s tent. Our union to Christ will be perfected after He has received us into His Father’s house (John 14:2, 3). It will be a heavenly ceremony and an intimate one, and in its love and joy, will stand in stark contrast to the dreadful tribulation events that will be unfolding on earth.
But the joy of the Lamb and His Bride will not be constrained to the heavenly sphere, or limited to the time span between the bema and Christ’s glorious manifestation. The custom of Jewish marriages at the time of Christ was for the marriage ceremony to be followed by a marriage feast that would last for days, and to which a great number of friends would be invited. It was a feast of this sort that the Lord Jesus attended in Cana of Galilee (John 2) and that was the subject of the parable He told in Matthew 22.
Matthew 22 is one of the passages that describes the event referred to in Revelation 19:9 as the marriage supper of the Lamb. In contrast to the heavenly intimacy of the marriage ceremony, this feast is earthly and public. The whole millennial reign of Christ with its blessing and its bounty will be the feast at which this marriage is celebrated. The parables of Matthew 22 and 25 furnish part of the guest list. Those who have heeded the gospel of the kingdom, who have prepared for the arrival of the Bridegroom, and who will enter the Millennium will enjoy the great feast. In addition, saints of past dispensations, now in resurrection bodies, will gather at the feast, as friends of the bridegroom (John 3:29).
It is God’s intention “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7). As she appears with Him in all the glory of her bridal garments, the wonder of what His grace has done in calling, and cleansing, and perfecting the ruined wrecks of sin will be evident to all. As she sits with Him in the place of honor at the marriage feast, all creation will learn afresh of the astounding accomplishment of divine grace. And amidst it all, we will enjoy a perfect closeness, intimacy, and communion that will grow yet more perfect as the ages of eternity roll.
Surely the anticipation of this event should fill and thrill our souls. Like Rebekah, we should long to learn more of the Bridegroom Who so soon will come to meet us. And as we think of the day when we will appear with Him in glory, clothed in fine linen, let us resolve, by our service for Him, to embroider and embellish our wedding garment that we may eternally have the capacity to fittingly portray His infinite glory.