Revelation 19:9 - The Beginning of the Marriage of the Lamb
...for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all peopleLk. 2:10b
Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!Rev. 19:9
The angel's "good tidings" bring "great joy" because of what the birth of Jesus means for God's people. At Christmas the eternal Son of God humbled Himself by coming down from His glorious heavenly realm in order to become a man of flesh and blood to dwell with us. As one of us, He represented us, doing what we should have done – obey God perfectly – and doing what we could never do – suffer and pay for all our sins, and renew us by His Spirit. Yet there is even more. Christ's physical fellowship with His people, which began at Christmas, is a foretaste of the eternal fellowship we will enjoy with Him in the closest possible unity, the unity of marriage.
John saw it in a vision and it made him ecstatic! (Rev 19) For when the Lord Jesus returns on the clouds He will not only conquer all His enemies, not only recreate heaven and earth in glory, not only cause the New Jerusalem to descend from God out of heaven, not only give His redeemed children new and glorified bodies, not only remove sin and all the tragic results of sin. All this, though unimaginably wonderful, does not yet constitute the complete fullness of joy.
The ultimate joy is when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again to the new earth – coming in the flesh with His glorified human nature and glorious body – to join Himself to His people. For we read, "behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God" (Rev. 3:21). Christ our Lord, who at Christmas began to "tabernacle" in our flesh will then again "tabernacle" on the new earth. His tent will be with ours. The end of the ages brings in the new marriage!
To be sure, we saw a foretaste of this marriage when Jesus was with His disciples and other followers. When asked why the disciples did not fast, he answered that they could not fast while the bridegroom was with them. However, at that time the marriage was not yet what it should be. Although Christ was without sin, He walked in deep humiliation on account of our sin; He had to endure the righteous wrath of the Father because of those sins. He experienced hunger and thirst and afflictions. He wept at Lazarus's grave. He had to suffer, to be rejected by his Father, and to die.
And so it was that the Bridegroom experienced many sorrows in His relationship with His bride. The marriage joy was still far from complete. His suffering and death – so essential for the marriage – cast a pall over the marriage, overshadowing its "great joy". Indeed, it sometimes appeared as if there was no marriage at all, even though the Groom and bride were together!
Moreover, the bride-church herself was still clothed in the body of sin and decay. And this bride-church often understood so little of the Bridegroom and His love. All too often the disciples were unbelieving and foolish. And God's church had deteriorated so very much. In the end she even turned against her Bridegroom, condemning Him and thrusting him out. She "excommunicated" Him and gave Him a certificate of divorce. What then was left of the marriage? A divorce and a funeral. Christ's burial became in many respects the end of the marriage relationship. It appeared that sorrow had replaced the "great joy".
But Christ had promised to return! The marriage feast of the lamb is coming! All those who have gone before us into heaven and who now enjoy Christ's initial glory around the Father's throne, and all the true believers on earth, will together meet their Bridegroom and He will never leave them. Suffering and death will belong to the past. The bride-church will also be completely glorified. She will be clothed with heavenly glory radiating down upon her from above. Then she will understand the length and breadth and height and especially the depth of her Bridegroom's love for her. Then through Christ's power and in His love the complete unity will be established through the Spirit of love. And the marriage will last forever, never to be disrupted again. Then, yes, the "great joy" will know no bounds.
For the bride will see the Bridegroom as her King in His beauty. She will walk and talk with Him and always be with Him. They will enjoy one another's presence, not only in the Spirit of God and of love but also in the flesh, in bodily presence, forever. Unimaginably wonderful! "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him!" Love will be pure in the bond of perfection. The bridegroom will lavish all His love upon His bride and the bride can then give herself completely to her Bridegroom.
That marriage of the Lamb on the new earth is the fulfilment of the "great joy" of Christmas. But already here on earth the meaning of Christ's coming in the flesh in Bethlehem will begin to live for the bride. She understands what it means that He came in our flesh and blood; it was in order to redeem us completely, in order to glorify us completely; in order to clothe us with everlasting life. Yes, even more: He came in our flesh and blood in order to be close to us forever.
The Son of God had this joyful marriage in mind when He took upon Himself our human nature at Christmas. It was the purpose of all God's beautiful works of salvation. The tidings of "great joy" at Christmas will then become the bride's "joy of contentment". Perfect contentment because we will have nothing more to long for; our holy longing will be completely satisfied and we will revel continuously in what we have.
That hope softens all our present sorrows – our sorrows in personal life, family life, church life, in this full but often so dark life. Indeed, looking forward to the marriage is the great stimulant in our daily life. Wedding guests we are; no, much more: we are the bride-church of the Bridegroom. Today already the wedding song wells up in our hearts. And although it is often suppressed and drowned out by our sins and sorrows, it remains the joyful keynote of our lives.
Wicked people and those who behave inappropriately, in and outside of God's congregation, can do you much harm. They can rob you of your good name and honour and your earthly possessions. But they cannot touch the beginning of eternal joy you carry in your heart! That joy is given by God, by the Christ, through His Spirit. That "beginning" is the foretaste of the marriage joy, which will turn into full elated happiness at the great marriage of the Lamb. Yes, Christmas is a feast with joyful perspective, a perspective of ultimate marriage joy and perfect bliss which we will enjoy forever in the marriage of the Lamb. Come Lord Jesus! Maranatha!