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 sum and substance of heaven’s glory. Samuel Rutherford said, “Suppose that our Lord would manifest His art, and make ten thousand heavens of good and glorious things, and of new joys, devised out of the deep of infinite wisdom, He could not make the like of Christ.” 1Letters of Samuel Rutherford, ed. Andrew Bonar (1891; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1984), 413.
There are several reasons why heaven is so focused on our glorious Savior. One reason is that no one can get there without Christ’s 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. 2One of the nineteen original stanzas of “Immanuel’s Land,” Anne Cousin’s hymn, first published in 1857, and composed of lines gathered from the Letters and Dying Sayings of Samuel Rutherford (d. 1661), published in 1664.
“Christ is the centerpiece of heaven because in heaven, faith in Christ will become sight of Christ. 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 Peter 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).
Heaven is Christ-centered because in heaven every believer will 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!
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” (Rev. 21:23).
But another, 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. This theme often surfaces in Bible passages.3Ps. 45:10–15; Isa. 54:5; 62:4–5; Matt. 9:15; 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 beautifully unfolded 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.”
As The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible says, “Redemption is a love story (Isa. 54:4–8; Hos. 3:1–5), the covenant is a vow of betrothal (Hos. 2:19–20), salvation is a wedding dress (Isa. 61:10), and the kingdom is a wedding feast (Matt. 22:1–14).”4The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014), 1892. Let us consider what Revelation 19:7–9 says about the wedding, the Bridegroom, the bride, and the guests.
Presently, the church is betrothed and waiting for her wedding day. There is a difference between what we mean by engagement and what the Bible means by betrothal; betrothal (or espousal) in Bible times was like a very strong form of engagement which could not be broken. From the day they were betrothed to each other, the couple would be regarded as husband and wife, but they would not live together. For example, Mary and Joseph were only “espoused” or betrothed, and he was shocked to discover that she was pregnant, but the angel called her his “wife” (Matt. 1:18, 20).5See also Deut. 20:7; 22:23–24; 28:30. With the betrothal, the bridegroom would pay the bride’s father a dowry, or “bride-price.”6On the bride-price (KJV “dowry”), see Gen. 34:12; Ex. 22:16–17; 1 Sam. 18:25; cf. Deut. 22:28–29. According to Jewish tradition, “the marriage agreement, drawn up at betrothal, was committed into the hands of the best man.”7D. J. William, “Bride, Bridegroom,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1992), 86. As a source he cites the Midrash, Exodus Rabbah 46.1. Then, when the wedding day came, both bride and groom would dress in fine clothing (Isa. 61:10). He would come to her home to get her and her friends, and take them to her new home, where they would all feast and celebrate for as long as a week (Judg. 14:12; Matt. 25:1–13).8It reflects the Jewish custom in which the formal wedding is preceded by a legally binding betrothal. During this period, which normally lasts no longer than a year, the pair were called husband and wife. To dissolve the betrothal required a formal divorce, which Joseph briefly considered doing with Mary (Matt. 1:18–20). As part of the betrothal, gifts were exchanged between the families. The bridegroom paid a bride-price to the family of the bride (Ex. 22:16–17), while the bride’s father presented a dowry to his daughter (Judg. 1:14–15). When the wedding day arrived, the bride prepared herself by dressing in finery, such as an embroidered garment (Ps. 45:13–14), jewels (Isa. 61:10), ornaments (Jer. 2:32), and a veil (Gen. 24:65).” Mark Wilson, “Revelation,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 4:354.”
All Christians are betrothed to Christ. Paul was thus jealously protective of believers who were being troubled by false apostles who preached another gospel. He said in 2 Corinthians 11:2–4, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” Paul casts himself in the role of the marriage broker or matchmaker. In his love for Christ, he desires to present Him with a chaste virgin bride; in his concern for the Corinthians, he resents anyone who wants to lead them astray into spiritual adultery.
Paul is not just preaching a set of abstract truths. He is not just presenting people with some philosophy. He is proclaiming the person of Christ, and through his preaching he is presenting that person to the congregation. “I have betrothed you to Christ,” he says. “You are engaged to be His.” Samuel J. Stone so beautifully says about the church:
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
Christ has paid the bride-price for all believers. Therefore, we are legally and inalienably His. He is coming again for His bride, the church, to lead us home to His Father’s house where He will present us spotless before His Father in heaven. There will be a wedding procession and festivities that will last not for a week or two, but for all eternity. We will be with Christ and behold His glory. The story of salvation is a love story. The covenant of grace is a marriage contract. Before the worlds were made, God the Father chose a bride for His Son and drew up a marriage contract between them. This wedding involves choice, not mutual attraction. God chose us in eternity and gave us to Christ, who bought us at Calvary and took us as His own through the preaching of the gospel; and now He will come back for us. When He comes back to claim us, we will enjoy intimacy and fellowship with Him forever.
The whole Trinity is involved in this marriage. The Father gives us His Son as our Bridegroom and gives us as a bride to the Son. As Ephesians 5:25 says, Christ purchased His bride with His blood and death. Ephesians 1:14 says the Holy Spirit is given to us as an earnest or guarantee. That guarantee, in ancient times, was shown by a down-payment. Today, this is commonly symbolized by an engagement ring. When Christ betroths us to Himself, He gives us the Spirit as a kind of engagement ring that guarantees that we shall arrive at the last day for the actual wedding.
James Hamilton puts it so well when he writes, “We can scarcely imagine the glory of that wedding day,” noting that:
- Never has there been a more worthy bridegroom.
- Never has a man gone to greater lengths, humbled himself more, endured more, or accomplished more in the great task of winning his bride.
- Never has a more wealthy Father planned a bigger feast.
- Never has a more powerful pledge been given than the pledge of the Holy Spirit given to this bride.
- Never has a more glorious residence been prepared as a dwelling place once the bridegroom finally takes his bride.
- Great will be the rejoicing. Great will be the exultation. There will be no limit to the glory given to the Father through the Son on that great day.9James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012), 351. Select statements from his paragraphs are taken and put in bullet point form.
The invitation to this wedding feast is presented in Revelation 19:6–7: “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come.”
The term marriage of the Lamb is strange because lambs don’t get married. But Jesus Christ is presented here in His capacity as Savior. The Lamb of this marriage shows us His love by living for us and dying for us. He first appears as the Lamb in Revelation 5, where we read, “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (vv. 6, 9). This love is a very one-sided affair, at least to begin with. “We love him,” said John, “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
When we think of the ideal marriage, we think of two lovers gazing into each other’s eyes, starry-eyed with love. That is a Western view of marriage. It is different in many other parts of the world. There the parents of a bride often decide when she is to marry. In some cultures, she may have no say in the matter. She may not even know who her husband will be. She does not meet him until the day they are married. She learns to love him as her husband, and he learns to love her as his wife. We see this pattern, for example, in the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. 24).
In some ways, that is the kind of marriage we have with Christ. We love Christ. But we only love Him because He loved us first. He loved us while we were yet sinners and were utterly unattractive and undeserving. He loved us while our carnal minds were still at enmity with Him. Our hearts were against Him, yet He loved us.
The prophet Hosea provides us with a powerful example of this love. God said to Hosea, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (Hos. 1:2). That is what happened. As an adulteress, Gomer had a succession of affairs; and when her youth and attractiveness were spent, she ended up in the slave market. But Hosea found Gomer in the slave market and bought her back—not to exact revenge on her for the rest of her life, but out of sheer love (Hos. 3:2). He was a faithful husband to her despite her unfaithfulness to him.
That is how God loves you, dear believer, in Jesus Christ! When we were still sinners—unclean, unfaithful, adulterous, and promiscuous—He loved us. The apostle John said, “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). He loved them to the farthest limits of love.
We can’t measure the length, breadth, height, and depth of the love of God; it surpasses knowledge. Jesus Christ loves us beyond our wildest imagination. He loved us all the way to the cross of Calvary. And there on that cross He paid the dowry to free us from the penalty of sin.
Sometimes when two people marry, one has a substantial bank account, and the other is in debt. But when they marry, they merge their accounts, for one flesh means one bank account. In a sense, that is similar to what Christ has done for us. When we were up to our necks in debt to a holy God because we had broken His law thousands of times, Christ took our liabilities and our debts and paid the price of all our sins. He was made sin for us. Christ became one flesh with His church. Her sins became His sins, and His perfect righteousness becomes hers through faith.
In his book, The Best Match, Edward Pearse seeks to allure sinners to come to Christ as their spiritual Husband. Like a good matchmaker, Pearse extols the virtues of this Bridegroom who calls us to become His, and His alone. Do you want a match who has honor and greatness? He is God and man, the brightness of His Father’s glory, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Do you want riches and treasures? Christ’s riches are the best, for they last forever, are infinitely great, and will satisfy all your desires. Are you looking for a generous heart in a spouse? Jesus Christ is willing to lay out His riches for His spouse so that her joy may be full. Do you want wisdom and knowledge? The infinite wisdom of God shines in Him; He is Wisdom itself, and knows perfectly how to glorify Himself and do good to those who love Him. Are you looking for beauty? He is altogether lovely, more than all the beauty of human beings and angels combined. Are you seeking someone who will truly love you? Christ is love itself, love that is higher than the heavens and deeper than the seas. Do you want a husband who is honored and esteemed? This Husband is adored by the saints and angels. Everyone whose opinion really matters treasures Him; God the Father delights in Him. Do you seek a match who will never die and leave you a widow? Christ is the King immortal and eternal; He is the resurrection and the life.10Edward Pearse, The Best Match: The Soul’s Espousal to Christ, ed. Don Kistler (Grand Rapids: Soli Deo Gloria, 2014), 56–70.
Behold the Lamb of God! Do you know Christ as the Lamb? Have you received Him as your heavenly Husband? Have you come to Him, repenting of your sin and throwing yourself on His mercy? Will you have Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to be your Savior, to love, honor, and obey, from this day forth and forever more? Will you have the Lamb of God to be your Husband—the Sin-bearer to be your Bridegroom? If you will have Him as your Bridegroom, you are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb, but if you won’t, you will not have Him at all.
Revelation 19:7 records these words of the church triumphant: “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.” The bride asks, What shall I wear? What kind of raiment is fitting for someone who is to be married to such a Bridegroom? So she begins in earnest to seek those things that will honor and please Him. She seeks to be holy as He is holy, by His own sanctifying grace. She can’t wait for the wedding. As the days go by, she checks off the days, counting how many are left before the big day. This is the picture you have here of the bride of Christ. She has made herself ready for the Bridegroom long before the wedding.
Paul speaks of this anticipation in 2 Timothy 4:6–8. He says, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only”—and then he widens it out to encompass every true believer—“but unto all them also that love his appearing.” True Christians love Christ’s coming, looking forward to that day with joyful anticipation and great longing.
Spurgeon said: “It ought to be a daily disappointment when our Lord does not come; instead of being, as I fear it is, a kind of foregone conclusion that he will not come just yet.”11 So are you longing for Christ’s return? Here, through the preaching of the gospel, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, in prayer meetings, and other spiritual disciplines, we see Christ, but through a glass darkly. We prize the means of grace, but how much more will we prize the day when we shall see Christ face to face!
What is most amazing is that Christ loves us and desires to be with us. As a pastor, I 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 believer, in His great love, Jesus Christ will beautify you now with His own image and holiness 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. He who rules over the whole universe will make us queen of heaven. The angels will be our servants. The King will take us by the hand and lead us to Paradise, His own personal garden, where we will live with Him forever!
Various stories 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 us 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.
Due to being saved by grace alone from the enormity of our sin, our intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ will be greater 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, which will allow no distance between us.
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.11The Psalter, With Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, Church Order, and Added Chorale Section (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1999), no. 31, verse 7 [Ps. 17:15].
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 is the realization of our imputed 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. We read in Revelation 7:14 of countless people from every nation who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” How did they wash their robes and make them white? By trusting in Christ alone for justification from the guilt of all sin. You can receive this cleansing only through faith—the self-abandonment of trusting Christ alone to make you acceptable to God.
Next, Christ continues to cleanse us from impurity in our sanctification. One day that sanctification process will be perfected and perfect holiness will be 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.” Literally, the Greek text says “the righteous deeds [δικαιώματά] of the saints.” Thus getting ready for the day that Christ comes for you does involve effort on your part. We are told in verse 7 that “his wife has made herself ready.” The man who says he belongs to Christ and yet never lifts a finger to purify himself is deceived. The Christian life means getting ready. It means putting off the old way of living and putting on the new.
As Paul says in Colossians 3:8‒9, “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” Then verse 12 says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” It is serious business to make ourselves ready for the return of Christ. There are no shortcuts, no secrets, and no easy escape routes. We have to make ourselves ready!
At the same time, this preparation is entirely a matter of grace. Notice here that “fine linen, clean and white…the righteousness of saints” (v. 8) is given to the bride to wear. You and I ought to be totally involved in the business of sanctification; yet, at the same time, sanctification is entirely a matter of grace. In short, the Lord reigns over His prepared bride, making her willing by His power! Verse 6 puts it this way, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Christ reigns over every part of our salvation—even our sanctification. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:25–27, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 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.
A wrinkle or spot is a sign of age or disease. People spend a fortune to get rid of spots and wrinkles. We are told here that Christ is going to present His church without a single spot or wrinkle to His Father in heaven. He will come with all His holy angels and will take the church by the hand. He will lead her before God and the assembled hosts of the universe. In eternity He chose us. We do not know why. There is nothing in us to merit His choice. What is more, He bought us with His own blood at Calvary. And now He is beautifying us by the gospel and by His Holy Spirit.
As all the hosts of heaven look at the bride on her wedding day, they will give God all the glory. Verses 6–7 tell us: “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 honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
The Guests Invited to the Supper
If the church is the bride, then who are the guests? Some have said that there will be at the wedding those who are married to the Lamb, and others who are just onlookers or guests. We need to remember that the language of Revelation is symbolic. This is the marriage of the Lamb, but of course lambs don’t get married. When Jesus says in John 10, “I am the good shepherd,” and then He says, “I am the door,” you wonder how He can be both. But He is really more than that and all the other descriptions and designations in Scripture put together. In the same way, the church is the bride of Christ as well as the company of guests at the wedding.
Heaven is a place of festivity. You will be thoroughly and profoundly happy in heaven, for it is a place of everlasting happiness, celebration, and festivity. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we remember that Christ Jesus accomplished complete salvation for us. The Lord’s Supper, however, is only a foretaste of heaven’s eternal supper (Luke 22:18). In heaven we will feast both with Christ and upon Christ.
In biblical times, sharing supper with someone was a sign of fellowship and closeness (Rev. 3:20). That’s why the Pharisees were so upset with Jesus for eating with publicans and sinners (Luke 15:2). But what Jesus did makes the gospel accessible to us all. “Hallelujah—this Man receives sinners!” we cry out.
When Jesus invites needy sinners to the marriage supper, He offers us an experience of fellowship that is beyond words. The Bible says that when a couple gets married they are to leave their parents to enter into a new relationship. While they were children, the closest relationship the bride and groom had was with their parents. But now the closest relationship they have is with each other as husband and wife. That is the best metaphor to describe the relationship between Christ and His church. As we feast with Christ in heaven, we will have an intimacy that can only be compared to as that between a husband and wife—yet it far surpasses even that.
Unlike human marriage, there will be no sexual relations in heaven (Matt. 22:30). We will not have physical relations, but we will have an intimacy that is even deeper. We will have an eternal, perfectly pure relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, far beyond anything here on earth. We will enjoy His embraces of love and will express our love for Him. There will be heavenly ecstasy without any sin or hindrance. It will be the purest, deepest emotion of love possible between the perfect Husband and the purified, perfected wife. When we are married to Jesus Christ, we will find our greatest delight in Him, and He will be delighted with us. Peter leaves us to ponder what this will be like since, as He notes, we already have such joy in Him: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
In his book, Heaven Help Us, Steve Lawson tells about a young aristocrat, William Monteague Dyke, who was stricken with blindness at the age of ten. The boy was very intelligent and went on to the university. While he was in graduate school, he met the beautiful daughter of a British admiral. The courtship soon flamed into romance. Though he had never seen this woman, William fell in love with the beauty of her soul. The two became engaged.
Shortly before the wedding, at the insistence of the bride’s father, William agreed to have eye surgery that might or might not restore his sight. The doctors operated on William and bandaged his eyes. He was then confined to bed with his eyes covered with bandages until the wedding.
William requested that the bandages be removed from his eyes during the ceremony, just when the bride made her way down the center aisle. As the organ signaled for the bride to come down the aisle, every heart waited to see what would happen. As the bride came down the center aisle, William’s father began to unwrap the gauze over his son’s eyes. When the last bandage was removed, light flooded into William’s eyes. Slowly, William focused on the radiant face of his precious bride. Overcome with emotion, William whispered, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined.”13
Something like that will happen to us when the bandages are taken away from our eyes, and we see Jesus. We will attain to what medieval theologians called the beatific vision, the very thing Christ prayed for when He said, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24). Then we will worship our heavenly Husband forever. He will gaze upon us as His bride and see only beauty—His own work in us. He will see no sin. We shall be like Him and see Him as He is. We will be as perfect in soul and in body as He is. As 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Hallelujah!
The Lord Jesus offers His hand in marriage to you. Will you receive it by faith and repentance? There is a sense in which everyone is called to this wedding. The gospel is to be preached to all creatures. God freely and lovingly invites all to this wedding. The invitations are out. All are welcome to come to Christ.
But to come to this wedding, you must be born again. You must know something of the marks of the Spirit’s saving grace in your soul. You must know what it means to respond to God’s overtures of salvation with true repentance and saving faith. You must learn of your need of the Bridegroom as your only hope of salvation. You must know something of your own depravity and something of Christ’s marvelous deliverance from it. And you must want to live for Him in gratitude if you are going to sit at His table wearing His wedding garment. You must be prepared for this table by being stripped of your righteousness. You must long for the day of your eternal marriage with Christ.
I can’t tell you how this world is going to end. But I can tell you that there will be a wedding, the wedding of all time, and you’re invited! And the gospel demands a response from you—your R.S.V.P. As Paul says in Ephesians 5, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (vv. 31–32). The gospel demands that you repent of your sin and cleave to this only Savior by true saving faith.
Those who do repent and trust in Christ can sincerely confess that their greatest hope is the hope of being with Christ and beholding His glory. David sings of this hope in Psalms 16:11 and 17:15: “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore…. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.” All who share this faith and cherish this hope can sing:
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.
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.
1. Since Christ is the jewel in heaven’s crown—for 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 Christ in His person, names, natures, states, offices, and benefits.
2. As a bride prepares herself for her wedding, we must do likewise. The more we yearn for our marriage with Christ, the more we shall seek for that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. 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 each other are not allowed to 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.
3. Remember that death will soon usher you into glory to forever be with your heavenly Husband. In John 14:2–3 Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. 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 into His throne room, to see the beautiful face of our Lord and Savior and Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Thus through all our lives and on our deathbeds we can sing:
Whom have I, Lord, in heaven but Thee,
To whom my thoughts aspire?
And, having Thee, on earth is nought
That I can yet desire.
Though flesh and heart should faint and fail,
The Lord will ever be
The strength and portion of my heart,
My God eternally!
The Beauty and Glory of the Last Things
Joel R. Beeke