“And he saith unto me, Write, blessed are they which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19: 9).
To partake of the marriage supper of the lamb is one of the foremost privileges of Christ’s kingdom. It is the consummation of that spiritual union which exists between Christ and the born-again believer. We’ve heard much talk about this marriage supper, and naturally we ask: when does it occur? We believe, firstly, that it is an event which takes place on earth; and secondly, that it is concurrent with the “First Resurrection” mentioned in John’s Apocalypse. The feast represents the consummation of our sanctification, when we are presented to Christ holy and without blemish (Eph. 5: 27). When are we presented without blemish? It is when we attain to the “resurrection of the just.” Now there is a need to back through Scripture and see how our sanctification is effected, that we may better understand the nature and timing of its consummation.
Bringing to mind Christ’s parable of the marriage supper (Matt. 22: 1-14), let us look closely at what He says. He speaks of an invitation (Matt. 22: 3). This invitation can be none other than that sent forth through the preaching of the gospel. Christ’s call of “Come unto me, all ye that labor” (Matt. 11: 28) is His bidding us to leave behind our own ways and return to God. This returning to God implies a yoke; and this yoke is the binding of the terms of the New Covenant to our consciences. We approve ourselves as Christ’s disciples only insofar as we are regenerated by His grace & sprinkled with His blood. We put off the old man, and put on the new. Thence our spiritual natures have the dominion over us. And such is the mastery (yoke) of the Gospel. It enables us to bear Christ, and to persevere unto the end.
When Christ speaks of His invitation, however, He also makes mention of those who refuse to listen (Matt. 22: 3-6). There be many who have no relish for the gospel, whose natural hardness of heart is never softened. And they are unreceptive to the preaching of God’s grace. This reminds us that we are sheep having gone astray (1 Peter 2: 25). We are in a natural state of sin and wickedness. While all men are made sinners through Adam, and all are in need of salvation, not all will heed Christ’s call. There must be an effectual drawing of the Holy Spirit ere we can believe unto salvation (John 6: 37, 44, 65). But so soon as this drawing is effected, we follow Christ. And this drawing commences our espousal to Him. His call brings us out of Egypt, and hence we begin that long and arduous journey to another land (1 Cor. 10: 1-11). While we travel, our sanctification is an ongoing work. It is finished when we enter the land of Canaan.
When the Christian is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, his transition from the first to the second Adam begins. As long as we are still subject to sin, we are still under the first Adam: and this should be kept in mind. When a man is freed from this body of death (old man), he then partakes of resurrection and judgment. This consummates his union to the second Adam; for Paul says, concerning the results of Divine grace: “He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit” (1 Cor. 6: 17). Thus, while natural marriage applies to those in earthly bodies, spiritual espousal is alone applicable to our present walk in the wilderness. Nevertheless, we now await our resurrection bodies (2 Cor. 5: 1-10). Our sanctification is yet incomplete.
Indeed, there is a true difference between espousal and marriage. For espousal is regeneration, and marriage is resurrection. As long as we have these “bodies of death” (Romans 7: 24) to contend with, we look forward to the heavenly marriage– to our resurrection. Until that marriage takes place we are in a state of Divine probation– as witness, for instance, the parable of the talents (Matt. 25: 14-30). In this life, we must be content with the “First-fruits of the Spirit.” And there is a “better resurrection” in store for those who persevere– who approve themselves worthy of everlasting life. This better resurrection is called the crown of life (James 1: 12; Rev. 2: 10) and the “First Resurrection” (Rev. 20: 5). It is that to which Paul desired to attain (Phil. 3: 11). Incidentally, let us recall that he was afraid lest he should miss out on this final prize (1 Cor. 9: 27).
The apostle’s warnings should cause us to take a closer look at the doctrine of “apostasy.” For Paul certain teaches that a professing Christian may fall away (Heb. 6: 4-6). In Christ’s visible church there are both wheat and tares. Christ Himself tells us that “many are called, but few chosen” (Matt. 22: 14). That is, many are outwardly called by the ministry of the Word, but who are not inwardly called by the Spirit of God. They can never truly come to Christ.
An espoused bride may prove herself unworthy, and the marriage become null and void. In the Mosaic law, the high priest was commanded to marry a “virgin of his own people” (Lev. 21: 13-14). There is a reason for this precept, and its fulfillment may be found “Abiding in Christ.” Chastity is often synonymous with moral purity (2 Cor. 11: 2). A sinner is first cleansed when he is regenerated by the Holy Spirit. His past sins are forgiven, and he henceforth undergoes continual washing, as the old man is mortified through the Spirit. In the Book of Revelation, they who are married to Christ are called “virgins” (Rev. 14: 4): whereas those who fall away are condemned to “outer darkness.” Thus, if we are truly espoused to Christ there is an urgent requirement to remember our obligations. The Holy Spirit purifies and renews us daily; but we must also “keep ourselves pure” (1 Tim. 5: 22). Here, as elsewhere, divine grace and human accountability go hand in hand.
In His parable of the marriage supper, Christ tells us that He sent forth His armies and destroyed the city of those who refused to hearken to the Gospel call (Matt. 22: 7). When Christ returns from heaven the children of the wicked one (the apostate tares of Christ’s visible church) shall be cast into the fire (Matt. 13: 38-40). At that time, the church will be completed: for its completion is contemporaneous with the marriage. The requirement of those who enter into the marriage supper is that they must have on a wedding garment. What is a wedding garment?
We’ll recall that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, God left them clothed with the skins of slain beasts (Gen. 3: 21). We suppose that this was the ordination of that necessary blood-sacrifice that looks to Christ for its true meaning. And we’ll find, in our studies of Scripture, that the blood sacrifice manifested itself in various ways from Adam unto Moses. Jethro, Moses’ father in law, was one of the last of those Gentile priests of God to offer up sacrifice for the sins of others (Exodus 18: 12). From the institution of the Mosaic statutes, the ordinance of blood-sacrifice was given solely to Israel. And so we discover that when Christ was offered up once to bear the sins of many, the ritual attained its true fulfillment. From thence on, salvation would be through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, without which there can be no remission of sins. This is a necessary requirement of entering into the kingdom of heaven.
So, during our espousal our garments are steeped in the precious blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. But when marriage is consummated, the same garments are pure and white. Blessed truth! The process of washing us white through the blood of Jesus Christ is expressed in Rev. 7: 14 where John records the angel as saying: “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” Thus they only who endure unto the end shall be saved; and these shall find themselves clothed with clean white garments. It is then that their marriage with Christ shall take place– when they shall stand in the presence of their Lord with renewed bodies. They who have passed through great tribulation are invested with the appropriate garments of completed sanctification. Therefore, it is evident that the sprinkling of Christ’s blood is that ongoing work of sanctification experienced by His disciples on earth, while the investiture of clean white garments takes place at the marriage.
As we leave our old bodies behind at death, we enter the intermediate state, and thence await the perfection of Christ’s kingdom, when He shall raise the dead and clothe us in new physical bodies. Then shall the supper of the Lamb take place. And all of Christ’s faithful servants will be rewarded according to their merits. They shall then “live and reign with Christ” (Rev. 20: 4) and have “power over the nations” (Rev. 2: 26). As Christians we all look forward to this time. Until then, let us keep ourselves pure.