Married to the Heavenly Bridegroom, the Glorious Christ
Have you ever noticed that the Bible does not speak about dying and going to heaven? It speaks about dying and going to be with Christ. Christ is the center of heaven’s glory. Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) said that if a thousand heavens were piled on top of each other, Christ would be the center of each one of them.
There are several reasons why heaven is so focused on our glorious Savior. One reason is that no one can get there without His saving work. Anyone who enters heaven must confess with Anne Cousin:
I stand upon His merit; I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.1
Second, Christ is the centerpiece of heaven because there faith will become sight. Peter describes our present situation: We love a Christ whom we have not seen, “in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Faith in the unseen Christ will be rewarded by the joy of looking upon Him and seeing Him as He is forever. “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17).
Third, heaven is Christ-centered because every believer will then be fully conformed to the image of Christ. We who believe “shall be like him” (1 John 3:2), and He shall be “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). What bliss it will be to be without sin, and to reflect Christ so completely that it will be impossible to be un-Christlike!
Fourth, heaven is focused on Christ because His glory will always shine there, and His praises will never grow old.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.Revelation 21:23
But a fifth, all-too-often-forgotten reason that heaven focuses on Christ is that in heaven the living church will be married to Christ and will express the love of a bride toward her husband. Dear believer, your engagement to Jesus Christ in this life will be turned into perfect marital union with Him in heaven as part of the body of the redeemed church. This theme often surfaces in Bible passages (see Ps. 45:10-15; Isa. 54:5 and 62:4-5; Matt. 9:15 and 25:1-13; John 3:28, 29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-33). But nowhere is the theme of our marriage to Christ so beautiful as in Scripture’s last chapters. Revelation 19:7-9 says,
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour 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 in Revelation 21:2 and 9 we read,
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband ... Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
Ephesians 5:25 says that Christ purchased His bride with His death. The bride will also be beautifully adorned for her Husband (Rev. 21:2). In most weddings a bride wears a special gown, which she has chosen and paid for. But in heaven we do not have to purchase a wedding dress, for that dress is the gift of God’s grace.
Isaiah 61:10 says,
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
The robe of righteousness that we wear on our glorious wedding day will reflect our blamelessness and holiness through Christ (Eph. 5:27), for He has redeemed us from sin’s guilt and purifies us to be zealous for Him (Titus 2:14). So, this gown is the robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us in justification (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ takes off the filthy garments of our guilt and clothes us with the clean and beautiful clothing of His merit (Zech. 3:1-5). His obedience is credited to us. Next, Christ continues to cleanse us from impurity in our sanctification. One day that sanctification process will be perfected and will then adorn the gown that is given to us.
Revelation 19:8 says,
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.
As a pastor, I occasionally counsel young couples who can hardly wait to be married. One young man wondered aloud why he and his fiancée had set their wedding date so far in the future. Likewise, the Lord Jesus Christ yearns for His eternal marriage with His beloved bride. Psalm 45:11 says: “So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty.” Dear believers, in His great love, Jesus Christ will beautify you now because He is looking forward to embracing you one day as His bride.
He is the King of heaven, and the King greatly desires you, for you will be lovely in His sight. The King of kings will make us His queen of heaven. The angels will be our servants. The King will take us by the hand and lead us through Paradise, His own personal garden, where we will live with Him forever!
Various stories throughout history tell about a great prince who marries a lowly maiden. But that is nothing compared to what we will one day experience when wonder of wonders the greatest Prince of all, the King of kings, takes the hand of lowly creatures. That wonder immensely adds to the love and beauty and splendor of this astonishing heavenly marriage. It is truly the story that ends, “And they lived happily ever after.”
We know both from the Bible and experience that marriage is the closest human relationship. The intimacy between a loving husband and a loving wife is beyond words, for the two indeed become one flesh (Eph. 5:31). But Paul speaks of an even greater mystery “concerning Christ and his church” (v. 32). In glory, dear believer, our closeness to Christ will far surpass even the intimacy between a husband and wife. Our intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ will be greater even than what He experiences with the holy angels who have been with Him in perfect holiness for thousands of years. We will have a direct, personal, intimate, mystical union with the Lord Jesus Christ, with no distance allowed between us.
Some medieval writers have called this union that causes great bliss and infinite happiness the “beatific vision.” In this union, we will experience such close companionship with Christ as our Savior and Lord and Best Friend that it will take eternity to enjoy it to the full. We will experience unspeakable heavenly ecstasy in this union without any sin or hindrance. We will experience the purest, deepest emotions of love imaginable with the perfect Husband. Like a husband and wife who find their greatest joy in each other, we will find our greatest delight in Jesus Christ, and He with us.
In his book, Heaven Help Us, Steven Lawson tells about a young aristocrat, William Montague, who, at age ten, was stricken with blindness. He was very intelligent and went to the university to study. While he was in graduate school, William met the beautiful daughter of a British admiral. Their relationship soon flamed into love. Though William could not see this woman, he fell in love with the beauty of her soul.
The two became engaged. Shortly before the wedding, however, the admiral persuaded William to have surgery on his eyes. The doctors did the delicate, experimental operation, and then bandaged William’s eyes until the wedding.
At last, that great day arrived. As the bride walked down the center aisle of church, William’s father began unwrapping the long strips of gauze from his son’s eyes. As his wife-to-be stood at the front of the church, William’s eye lids opened, and light flooded into his eyes. He looked intently into his bride’s radiant face. Tears burst from his eyes as he beheld her beauty. Overcome with emotion, William whispered, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined.”
Something like that will happen to us, friends, when the bandages of our mortality are taken away, and we see Jesus Christ in glory, no more through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12). Then we shall experience with the psalmist:
When I in righteousness at last
Thy glorious face shall see,
When all the weary night is past,
And I awake with Thee
To view the glories that abide,
Then, then I shall be satisfied. Psalter 31:7
Let me conclude with three practical lessons we can apply from this truth of Christ, the centerpiece of heaven, to whom we may one day be married in the greatest wedding of all time.
- Since Christ is the jewel in heaven’s crown – He is what makes heaven heaven – strive to make Him the center of your life here on earth. You can get to heaven without money, education, beauty, or friends, but you cannot get there without Christ. Only those who are now engaged to Christ will one day be married to Him in heaven. So put all your energy into focusing on Him.
Are you engaged to the Lord Jesus now? Has He won your heart? Have you pledged to be faithful to Him? If not, do not continue to spurn His advances. He offers His hand in marriage to you. Receive it now by faith and repentance.
- As a bride prepares herself for her wedding, we must do likewise. The more we yearn for union with Christ, the more holy we will become. But the less we think of it, the less we will follow the Lord Jesus in this life.
During an engagement, those who are betrothed to one another do not court other people. We must not flirt with sin but push it far from us and say, “I will keep myself pure for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Remember that death will soon usher you into glory to forever be with your heavenly Husband. In John 14:2-3, Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Death for believers is our gateway to see the beautiful face of our Lord and Savior and Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. On our deathbeds, by faith we can sing the words of the old song, “Take the world, but give me Jesus.” When our lifeless body lies in the grave, our spirit will already be in heaven, where we shall experience in full these words:
The king there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen:
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army,
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.
O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
More deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.