The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 142

The Marriage of the Lamb

     The nineteenth chapter of Revelation is surely one of the mountain-peak chapters of Scripture, as well as one of the most magnificent in all literature.  From the great Hallelujah Chorus in heaven to the long-awaited union of Christ and His Bride, then on to His glorious return to earth and finally to the cataclysmic battle of the ages, this amazing chapter proceeds from one majestic theme to another, climaxing in the termination of the long, sad day of man and bringing in the glorious kingdom of God on earth.

     The second of these grand themes is introduced by the heavenly chorus, as the time nears for the heavenly Bridegroom to be united in endless bliss to His Bride, a Bride whom He had purchased long ago, with His own blood on Calvary, as the spotless Lamb of God.  Finally His Bride is ready and the marriage song begins.

 Revelation 19:7.     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.

     After praise, joy comes.  The “great multitude” in heaven had echoed forth its great doxology, praising the Lord for His mighty power and His imminent reign.  But then the awareness that His kingdom is about to come suddenly brings the realization, as it were, that His holy marriage is also about to come, and this causes gladness and joy unspeakable.  Yet in all their joy, they are careful also to ascribe honor to the heavenly Father of the Bridegroom.  The Son whom He loves has been given to the Bride whom the Bridegroom loves.  Age after age, He has waited, but at long last the Bride is ready, the marriage date is set, and the marriage feast is being prepared.

     The grand union of time and eternity, of man and God, has always been portrayed by the very institution of marriage itself.  When man and woman were first created, God made man’s body from the physical elements of His created cosmos, then woman’s body from the living flesh and bone of man (or, perhaps, from the blood, which sustains both flesh and bone) and then the solemn pronouncement was made: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

     This passage was taken literally by the Lord Jesus Christ and then used by Him as the basis of His teaching that marriage (therefore also the institution of home and family) was intended by man’s Creator to be permanent and monogamous (see Matthew 19:3-8; Mark 10:2-12).  Even more significantly, the Apostle Paul showed that marriage was not only permanent but was a picture of the indissoluble and perfect union of Christ and His Church.  This is the theme of the beautiful passage in Ephesians 5:22-23.  For example: “Husbands, love your wives, even as 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” (Ephesians 5:25-27).  And then, quoting from the Genesis record: “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  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” (Ephesians 5:30-32).

     Although this beautiful simile finds its fullest and ultimate expression here in the New Testament union of Christ and His Bride, the Church, it is familiar throughout the Bible.

     For example, the Lord referred to the people of Israel as His own wife, whom He loved dearly but who often was an unfaithful and adulterous wife.  The prophecy of Hosea is largely built around this concept.  After rebuking Israel for her unfaithfulness, the prophet says: “And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than how” (Hosea 2:7).

     Then, when Israel finally returns to the Lord (as we have already seen will happen during the tribulation), the Lord will gladly receive His erring “wife” back into His loving fellowship.  “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies” (Hosea 2:19, 20).

     Similarly Jeremiah says: “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:31, 32).

     Isaiah also uses the same figure: “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel: The God of the whole earth shall he be called” (Isaiah 54:5).

     In the New Testament, the Church is symbolized as the pure and faithful Bride of Christ: “For 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” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

     Whether a clear-cut distinction should be made, in interpreting this great future wedding, between Israel as the restored wife of the Lord and the Church as the virgin Bride of the Lord has long been a matter of disagreement between expositors.  Although there is surely a difference between an adulterous wife and a chaste bride, so far as the figure of speech goes, there is not such a clear distinction between actual individual believers before Christ and after Christ.  There were many godly and faithful Jewish believers in ancient times just as there are multitudes of compromising carnal Christians today.

     Whatever fine distinctions may be warranted at this great future gathering, surely the primary truth is the final, perfect eternal union between Christ and His people.  All sin will have been purged and cleansed, and full fellowship reestablished, as far as the resurrected saints are concerned, whether Jew or Gentile.  Probably the restoration of the earthy people of Israel (that is, those who survive the tribulation and enter the millennium in their natural physical bodies) is a sort of earthly reflection of the heavenly union between Christ and all glorified believers.  The restored wife on earth may thus be a type of the newly married Bride in heaven.

     The testimony is also given that “his wife hath made herself ready.”  On the earth the unfaithful wife, Israel, will have prepared herself through the purifying furnace of affliction in the great time of introspection in the wilderness, to which she had fled from the face of the dragon (Revelation 12:6).  When Christ returns in power and great glory to His people, and they look on Him whom they pierced (Zechariah 12:10), they will completely submit to Him in full repentance and faith.

     At the same time, in heaven, at the judgment seat of Christ, all the raptured saints of he ages will have been purified and made like Christ (1 John 3:2, 3; Romans 8:29).  In the figure, the Bride will have put on her appropriate bridal garments, prepared to meet her Bridegroom and to be joined forever to Him.

Revelation 19:8.     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 fine linen garments, white and clean, of course speak of the full preparation of the Bride to accompany her Bridegroom.  The old clothing has been abandoned and all is new and pure as she enters His holy presence forever.  “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” (Isaiah 61:10).

     The Bride’s old garments of self-righteousness, which once had seemed so fine and attractive, had become in her sight like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and she had gladly put them aside for the pure white linen provided by her Savior.  “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans 7:4).

     Whenever a man or woman receives the matchless gift of salvation offered by the Lord Jesus Christ, this is the way it is.  He saves us, not by our works, for we are his workmanship created unto good works (Ephesians 2:9, 10).  Then, in turn, the good works in which He has before ordained that we should walk become the “righteousness of saints.”

     The word here is plural and could better be translated “the righteous deeds of saints.”  Here is a paradox, yet a paradox which is utter reality.  No believer is saved, or made fit to enter his Savior’s presence, by virtue of his righteous acts.  Yet, once having been saved by grace through faith, he then is both enabled and constrained to walk in righteousness, and these righteous deeds in some marvelous transmutation become the clean white linen robe of righteousness provided by the Savior for His people.

     Mystery or no, it will be blessedly real in that day.  In unfathomable grace, the Lord Jesus will reward us for all righteous acts done in His name, and these will equip us to stand in His presence.  Yet these very acts are only by His enabling, identifying in some wonderful way with garments of salvation and robe of righteousness which He himself has purchased and provided for His Bride.

     Furthermore, all sin and remnant self-righteousness will have been exposed, judged, and cleansed at His judgment seat in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Thus will His wife make herself ready, and accompany her Lord in clean raiment.

Revelation 19:9.     And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

     Since the closest possible antecedent of “he” is apparently the “voice from the throne” (v. 5), it may be that the Lord Himself is renewing His command to John at this point to write what he was seeing and hearing.  More likely, however, the instruction came from the angel (see v. 10).  This was to be the true record of future history, to be written for the guidance and encouragement of all the generations of Christians who would come after John.

     That which he was specially admonished to write at this point was the fourth of the seven great “beatitudes” of Revelation.  It would become a great blessing and strength to all the suffering saints through the ages, exhorting everyone who would be a member in Christ’s growing Church (His Bride) to anticipate their glorious future union with the heavenly Bridegroom.

     And again the figure of the “marriage” or “marriage supper” is used to depict that union.  The “marriage” of the Lamb is mentioned in verse 7, and the “marriage supper” of the Lamb here in verse 9, but both the usage of these words and also the wedding customs of John’s time regarded the marriage and marriage feast as essentially the same.

     The betrothal was normally arranged by the parents long before the actual wedding.  The marriage contract was effected by the payment of a dowry by the brides’s parents.  Months, or perhaps years, later when the bride and groom were ready for marriage, the date for the wedding feast would be set.  At the appointed time, the bridegroom and his friends would set forth from his home to her home to claim his bride.

     There she, his chaste virgin bride, would await his coming with her own friends, all virgins, who would accompany her to the wedding supper, sumptuously provided at great expense by the father of the bridegroom.  Upon the arrival of the bridegroom, the bride would be surrendered to him by her parents, and he would carry her back to his own home with great joy and anticipation.  They would be followed by their friends, who would then join them in the happy wedding celebration at the home of the groom’s father.

     From that time on, the bride and groom were united, never to be parted until death if God’s ideal plan for marriage were accepted and followed by them.  Thus did the marriage supper consummate the marriage.

     It is this beautiful custom which apparently is in view here in this striking picture of the marriage of the Lamb.  The marriage had been engaged long ago when the heavenly Father essayed to claim a Bride for His Son from the world of lost mankind.  In this case, however, the Bride had no dowry to offer for a husband and was quite unworthy of such a wedding.  Therefore the Son offered to pay the price Himself.  He became the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and His shed blood became the purchase price that made the Bride fit to enter the home of His Father.  The garments of salvation, her robes of righteousness provided by Him, replaced her own filthy rags, and she became His espoused Bride.

     It was a long time, however, before He could actually go forth to claim His Bride.  Finally the day had come and He had received her to Himself from the home of her parents, taking her with Him to the place of the wedding. The time en route (corresponding to the time between the “rapture” and the actual wedding supper) would be a time of fellowship and also a time of further cleansing and purification in His presence (corresponding to her appearance at His judgment seat).  But now, at last, it was almost time for the wedding.

     The figure of the wedding feast is familiar in the parables of Christ.  For example, in the parable of Matthew 22:1-14 (also Luke 14:16-24) Jesus said: “the kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.  And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.”  The major thrust of this parable, of course, is directed against those who refuse Christ’s invitation.  All have been invited to His wedding, but most people decline His gracious call.  Whatever the excuse, it does not satisfy the king, and He sends into the highways and hedges to find those who will come to the wedding.  When the wedding feast is finally ready, “the wedding was furnished with guests” (Matthew 22:10). Further, the host provided all with the proper garments for the wedding, no matter how torn or filthy may have been their own clothing. When one man appeared at the feast without a garment, however, he was cast out.  He, like all the others, had been invited and had rejected the formal terms of the invitation, preferring instead to participate on his own terms, rather than those of the host.  This is impossible, of course, and he will therefore be cast out with all those who had refused even to come at all.

     A different, though related, emphasis is found in Christ’s parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).  “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.  And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.”

     The foolish virgins were shortsighted, too much concerned with their immediate interests and comforts to prepare for the great privilege of participating in the wedding of the king.  They had not declined the invitation and, in fact, were planning to be in the entourage of the bride herself, but were simply careless and self-centered, not being sufficiently concerned to make adequate preparations for the great opportunity they had been offered.  The generous host would send the needed garments for their clothing, but not the oil for their lamps.  They had ample time to prepare but slept instead, and the bridegroom came upon them unawares.  “And while thy went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.”  To the foolish virgins, when they finally came, He said, “I know you not” (Matthew 25:10, 12).

     In the one parable, many are excluded from the wedding by their own choice.  In the second parable, half of those who want to come are excluded by their own negligence.  Those who do get there are there by their own choice, by their submission to the terms of the invitation and by virtue of their diligence in making the needed preparations.  All three are apparently essential qualifications for those who come to the great wedding supper.

     Many interpreters believe the oil for the lamps symbolizes the Holy Spirit, with the excluded virgins representing those professing Christians who are not truly born again by the Spirit.  This is doubtful, however, for two reasons.  First, there is no specific reference anywhere in Scripture which states that oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.  Specifically, in this parable of the ten virgins, there is no suggestion that the oil, as such, is a symbol of anything at all.  Second, the presence or absence of the Holy Spirit in an individual does not depend upon his own effort, but the parable speaks of the need for going to the market and buying the oil.  Every true believer receives the Holy Spirit at the same moment he receives Christ’s “garment” of righteousness, through his faith in Christ as Savior, and nothing else.

     At the same time, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).  Genuine faith is evidenced, first of all, by a spiritual “wisdom” which is careful, rather than careless, toward the Lord.  The word “wise” in the parable of the virgins is the Greek phronimos, which means, literally, “thoughtful.”  The word “foolish” (Gr. moros) has the sense of “heedless.”  The foolish virgins demonstrated that they did not really know the Lord (and, therefore, He knew them not) by their attitude of indifference toward Him.

     In summary, the consistent teaching of the parables and of all relevant Scripture is that those who will participate in the great wedding feast of the Lamb are all those who have responded in true saving faith to the gospel invitation, manifesting outwardly that inward faith by an attitude of thoughtful concern for the things of God.  They are all clothed in clean, white linen, which speaks of the “righteousness” of the saints (Revelation 19:8).

     But what distinction, if any, is to be made between the guests at the wedding and the attendants of the Bride, or between these and the Bride herself?  Many and ingenious have been the interpretations proffered, but it is significant that none of these are offered in the biblical texts themselves.

     It is certain that all who were saved, both before and after Christ, will be with Him, eating and drinking with Him in the kingdom of God.  “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11; see also Luke 3:29).  “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

     Furthermore, the New Jerusalem is identified as the Bride of Christ (Revelation 21:9, 10), no doubt because it is the eternal home of all who are saved (Revelation 21:24), those who collectively constitute His Bride.  But this city has twelve gates, inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and twelve foundations, in which are the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:12, 14).  This surely means that within the city are both the redeemed of ancient Israel and the redeemed of the later Church of Christ.  And this in turn must mean that all of these are somehow a part of “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

     The Bride, therefore, represents and includes all her attendants and all the wedding guests as well.  The symbolism in the parables cannot be pressed beyond its purpose. The real message is that all believers in the true God, both Creator and Redeemer, of all the ages, will one day be restored to perfect fellowship with Him and united with Him forever.  Glorious will be the great wedding feast, and blessed indeed are all who are called unto it.

     Whatever distinctions may exist between the saints of the pre-Abrahamic period, the saints in Israel before Christ, the saints among the Gentiles from Abraham to Christ, the saints of the tribulation, and the saints in the churches from Christ to the rapture (and no doubt these will continue to be identifiable groups even in the ages to come) such distinctions are secondary to the great primary truth that all will be there by virtue of the saving work of Christ and their personal trust in the true Creator God and His provision of salvation.  There is only one God (not one God identified with Israel and one God associated with the Church) and that one triune God will be in personal fellowship forever with all the redeemed saints of all the ages.  He will dwell with them in the Holy City forever (Revelation 21:2, 3).

     The blessedness of the great union and the feast accompanying it is so great and so important that it is emphasized again to John that these sayings are true, for God is their author.  On two later occasions is a similar testimonial assertion made (Revelation 21:5; 22:6), and all three speak of the blessedness of the redeemed in glory.  Such promises are deemed by God to be of such paramount importance as to warrant a special surety that they are from God Himself. 

Revelation 19:10.     And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

     So magnificent was the mighty angel who had conducted John through the great scenes, and so overwhelming his revelation, that the apostle felt a sudden compulsion to bow down in worship before him.  John later made the same mistake again (Revelation 22:8, 9).  On both occasions, the angel reminded him that only God should be worshiped.  No created thing or being – not even the greatest man or most exalted angel – is ever to be worshiped, for worship (that is, literally, “bowing down” to do the will of another simply on the basis of his intrinsic power and authority) belongs only to God.

     This was, indeed, a mighty angel, but he would only claim to be a fellow servant, with John, of the One to be worshiped.  Angels are merely “ministering” (that is, serving) spirits (Hebrews 1:14).  In fact, the angel here claimed actually, literally, to be a fellow slave of John’s, so wholly dedicated was he to doing God’s will.  Like John and his Christian brethren, the angel himself maintained and proclaimed the same “testimony of Jesus” which they proclaimed, nothing more.

     This phrase is very significant, with a different connotation than the somewhat more common phrase “testimony of Christ,” or “testimony of Jesus Christ.”  The emphasis here is on His human name and thus the testimony has specifically to do with His humanity.  The angel knew full well the fact of Christ’s deity.  In fact, he knew and believed that He was nothing less than the Creator, so that “all the angels of God worship him” (Hebrews 1:6).  Of His deity there was no question, but that God would become man was hard to believe and would need the faithful and consistent testimony of both holy angels and godly men.  It is this testimony that is opposed by the rebel angels, the demonic spirits, and it was for this “witness of Jesus” (witness is the same Greek word as testimony) that the tribulation saints had been beheaded (Revelation 20:4).

     It was the spirit of opposition to this inestimable significant truth of the incarnation (the Word made flesh, as per John 1:14) that John in his epistle had already recognized as the spirit of Antichrist (1 John 4:3), and now he had seen Antichrist himself seeking to destroy all who maintained the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17).  The “testimony of Jesus” is the spirit of true prophecy.  It contradicts the testimony of false prophets.  “Beloved,” John had warned, “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God. . . . Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (1 John 4:1-3).  “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).

     It was for his faithful proclamation of this testimony that the mighty angel desired John to recognize him, not the marvelous revelations concerning the future judgments which he had been privileged to show John.  To him, the most amazing of all revelations was that the Almighty Creator had become the man Jesus, to save His people from their sins.

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