While surviving the present, let’s remember that pandemics and economic shortages aren’t our final destination.
I have adapted this post from a message given by Michael Taylor, a preacher from
Grandview Christian Assembly.
Delana and I got engaged a year before our wedding. Of course a lot went into the planning. As an accountant, I thought about the budget. Delana’s parents were gracious enough to fund it, but trying to make everything fit in that budget was like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with too many pieces. There were all kinds of unexpected costs, and so it was challenging.
One area important to me was the food, especially the cake, because to me, nothing tastes better than wedding cake. Another thing I actually enjoyed was ring shopping. Delana and I went together. I found myself wondering not only about what looked good on our fingers, but what would look good on them in fifty years. It was exciting to prepare for the big day. Though Delana did most of the pre-wedding work, I took on the task of honeymoon planning, and found us a Caribbean cruise. The entire process was a bit nerve-wracking, but in a good way–the build up to that big day when you get to be with the person you love and live together with them forever.
But there is a social phenomenon called “Detached groom,” or, “Disinterested groom.” That is, for some men, instead of excitement and anticipation, the planning time is full of dread and negativity—Do we really need to have another discussion about wedding details? Oh no, I have to spend time talking with my wife-to-be about things important to her, and us.
What would you think if a man got annoyed this way? Worse, when he thought of being married mainly in terms of giving up freedom, space, time, and money? We’d probably pull the guy aside and tell him there was something wrong. This is supposed to be a time of anticipation, of celebration along the way, and one of the highlights of one’s life.
And yet this odd type of attitude not only occurs among us about weddings, but in relation to the return of Christ. Human beings are unhappy to hear about the second coming. Sometimes this unfortunately includes Christians when we feed upon, or invest our lives in the wrong things.
Christians are people who happily anticipate both future judgment and joy in the personal return of Jesus.
The first thing that sparks celebration in chapter 19, is our gladness over worldly blockades being moved out of the way of our relationship with the Lord.
1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
“After this” means after the destruction of the material and religious world system back in chapters 17 and 18—Babylon. On the heels of this event, so traumatic to those who do not love Christ, heaven breaks out in a chorus of praise. It’s the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, the multitude of Believers referred to back in Chapter 7. This is one of the greatest contrasts in the Bible.
While in chapter 18, lament fills the hearts of those who love the world and are happy with the fallen status quo, the saints shout for joy over the salvation, glory, power, judgment, and truth of God. The system that led so many astray, that crucified Christ, and sought to destroy the faith, that tried to crush the true church, has gone up in flames. Even the smallest believer can find consolation in the great backdrop of what is going on here.
Before you start thinking this is cruel, or insensitive, recall the Nazi regime during World War II. When the war was over, and that government finally collapsed, thousands of Jews emerged from death camps where they had been imprisoned. None of them felt sorry for the collapsed Nazi infrastructure. None wept over lost Nazi entertainment, events, or rallies. Instead, they thanked the liberators.
And from heaven’s vantage point, none of us will mourn over losing our Netflix streaming service, Wendy’s junior bacon cheeseburgers, Amazon Prime one hour delivery, or Facebook Likes. We won’t miss the million other things that competed with God for our hearts, because the money, the power, and the propaganda is all going to have been exposed as lies and fake, as fleeting, and a sham.
The Bible shows us this picture of future judgment to make sure we see the things we should learn to rejoice over in the here and now. One of them has to do with our celebration as we see the grand finale of our Christian Life approaching (vv. 6 through 10).
6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come…
The celebration reaches a high tide here as we’re told that “the bride has made herself ready.” This is the fulfillment of Ephesians 5:25, where Christ loved the church like a bride and gave Himself up for her, sanctifying her by the washing of water with the word until she is without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
This is ultimate moment where we enter a perfect marriage union with Christ and get full participation in His kingdom. We’ve gotten ready for that moment—“and his Bride has made herself ready”—How? Verse 8 says, “it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Salvation is a free gift “granted” from Christ, but we know from Philippians 2:12 that we also have an active participation in working out that salvation through righteous deeds.
Jesus spent a whole parable talking about the attire for the wedding feast back in Matthew 22. One man at the feast was there without a wedding garment. We all know there are things you do and don’t wear to formal weddings. This person wasn’t dressed appropriately, found himself speechless and with no excuse when he was confronted over it, and was thrown out of the wedding feast.
It’s important to Jesus that we’re wearing a garment woven from His granted righteousness. It says both something about Him, as well as ourselves.
Clothing always makes a statement beyond itself. What color is associated with UPS? You’d probably say “brown” because their branding is everywhere on trucks and uniforms. Even their motto mentions the color: “What can brown do for you?” Everything rotates around UPS as an organization with certain values on a certain mission. It’s how they drive their vehicles, and how they conduct themselves, and yes, it’s about the way they dress.
The garment we put on says something about us, as well as the One we’re going to marry—about His holiness, and righteousness, and glory. When we put on Christ, it comes out in the open through our words and deeds. During this process, we’re preparing for that blessed day. It will be the wedding not just ‘of the year’ or even ‘of the century,’ but of eternity.
When you first received and accepted the invitation to salvation, you were blessed. As you’re preparing to attend the wedding feast by letting Christ into every aspect of your life, you are being blessed. And finally, when you attend that true perfect wedding, you will be blessed.
Maybe this was why the Apostle John mistakenly fell down at the angel’s feet to worship him. In the midst of the excitement, he became so giddy he lost his bearings. The angel forbade him, saying, “‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (v. 10). Our worship and adoration are all for God, and the center of this book is Jesus. But we find it easy to lose sight of this, especially during wedding preparation.
Sometimes in the weddings we see around us, the bride becomes so self-absorbed she turns into a Bridezilla, and the groom so self-centered he becomes a Groomzilla. Delana and I are pretty low-key people, but during our wedding preparation we had our moments. There was the time Delana was unusually perturbed over how the folks at the reception hall changed the shade of pink without consulting her.
And then there was my small rant that regardless of what food items were chosen for the meal after the wedding, it had to include cheese on the salad. Looking back fourteen years, it sounds so silly, especially in these current days, when people are wondering if they’ll be able to have a wedding ceremony at all. Our truest preparation is really about getting ready for a forever life with another person, not the nit-picky personal touches we’d prefer.
Wherever we are in the course of unfolding human events, we’re still in the phase of making ready for the return of Christ. We should keep our eternal spouse-to-be as central, never allowing ourselves to sink down into merely becoming religious. Hopefully then, even our preparations can be a time of celebration, as we get to know the Person we’ll be with for eternity.
Consider Him in advance, through the book He’s written for us (the Bible), and absorb the truth of His will, His character. Have important talks with Him. Sever old attachment points, and create new ones.
The big day is on the way.