The one of the keys to a successful marriage is preparation. In fact, one of the keys to being successful in any endeavor is preparation. Preparation is the careful planning and attention to detail, identifying the loose threads and strands that need to be connected or tied together. Preparation calls for examination and constant re-examination of the whole and the sum of its parts. We must check the machinery to make sure that it can not only carry us to where we want to go, but will endure the various levels of stress it will be subjected to. We must also check for integrity and soundness of operation. For anything that is not sound will fail. This includes relationships, businesses, careers, family, our bodies, our church, and even our faith.
There is one other thing we must check for and that is readiness. One of the pillars of failure or ensuring a lack of success is starting or ending prematurely. We must guard against premature starts and stops. We must be careful not to enter into business deals before we have secured the capital to fulfill our end of the deal. We must be careful not to rush into property ownership before we do our homework and thoroughly check out what exactly we are buying and what additional costs may be required. We must be careful not to end a relationship to soon based on a feeling that things do not seem to be working out or we have seen something better.
And so, before we engage in any endeavor we must check to see if we are in fact ready for what we are about to embark upon.
The Apostle John while exiled on the island of Patmos received a vision from God. John recorded the events and scenes of the vision he received and it is titled The Book of the Revelation. Sometimes the most profound revelation comes when we are isolated, separated, and alone. The direction for our lives, insight and intuition with regard to choices and decisions we should make, the unfolding of God’s plan for us and our family. Sometimes God does not reveal the most critical and important pieces to the puzzle until no one else is around. It is hard to hear anyone when the TV is on, or we have the headphones on, earpieces in our ear, or are on the phone, or with our head between the covers of a book. The more important the message God has for us, the greater the need for God to sequester us so that all of the distractions can be taken away and God can have our complete, full and undivided attention. If you find yourself alone, pay attention and listen closely because God has something important to reveal to you.
It is interesting to note that John was a visionary and not a dreamer. Joseph was a dreamer. Dreamers see destinations. Joseph saw his family bowing down to him that was his destination. John was a visionary. Visionaries see the unfolding of the plan that will take them to their destination. It is important to see the destination, but it is equally important to see how to get there.
In one of the scenes of John’s vision, he sees the Lamb coming to claim His bride and consummate their marriage. Most people understand the Lamb to be Jesus, the slain Lamb of God. But, who is the bride that Christ is coming back for? The term bride is one of many metaphors that are used throughout the Scriptures to refer to the church. Other metaphors include, The Body of Christ, flock, Israel of God, the elect, a royal priesthood, holy nation, God’s own people, Temple of God, and seed of Abraham to name a few. Each of these metaphors conveys a certain imagery of the church and its relationship with and to God. While each of these metaphors conjures up a different image, they all refer to the church.
The bridal and wedding imagery that John uses here is designed to do a couple of things. First, it is intended to help believer’s understand the unique relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians refers to the union between Christ and the Church as a mystery. To aid us in better understanding the uniqueness of our relationship with Christ let us consider the steps to getting married ancient civilizations and some modern societies still employ.
The groom’s parents selected the bride. John Calvin, the Reformed theologian, reminds us that God chose us, when we come to Christ we do so in response to God’s choosing of us. God the Father of Christ has chosen us to be united with Christ.
After the selection has been made the groom’s parents would pay the dowry or a price for the bride-to-be. God paid the ultimate price. He gave the life and blood of His son so that we could be together with Him and Jesus throughout all eternity. Think about this, our salvation really does not cost us anything, but it cost God everything and it cost Jesus His life – now that is love!
Once the price has been paid, the groom would give the bride a gift as a promise of his intent to marry her. Jesus has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that when we receive the Holy Spirit we were marked in Christ with a seal and the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.
The engagement or espousal followed the giving of a promissory gift. It is during this period both bride and groom spent their time getting ready for the day the groom would come back to claim his bride and take her with him to start their new life together. There would be a feast and a celebration from the home of the brides parents until the couple reached their new home where the marriage would be consummated.
We are now in the engagement period. We are awaiting Jesus the bridegroom’s return. When Jesus returns He will take us to be with Him for all eternity, but during the interim we need to get ready.
Another reason I believe John uses the bridal imagery is to help us get ready. The term bride means, suggests, and implies a woman pledged to be married. After the wedding the bride becomes a wife. Here we see the wisdom of the Scriptures and older societies. They understood that change and transformation is a process. Before we can be something, we have to become that thing. No one starts out a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or registered nurse. There are some steps that have to be taken and there is a period of preparation that must occur. As we take the steps to prepare ourselves we put ourselves on the pathway to become. And so, before we can become the wife of Christ, we must be the bride of Christ. I encourage us not to take the title bride lightly because with it comes certain responsibilities and obligations. Specifically, we have to understand that we are pledged to Christ. This means that God has selected us, bought and paid for us, and promised us to Christ. In other words we no longer belong to ourselves, we no longer can live solely to please and satisfy our personal desires, but rather we must live our lives so that they are pleasing and glorify Christ. It means we must accept the fact that if we want to be married to Christ and spend eternity with Christ we must honor our pledge to Christ. It is Christ who owns us and it is Christ to whom we now belong.
The term bride, a simple name serves as an identity marker. Names help to inform and identify. They inform all we come in contact with who we are. They also help to identify whom we belong to. When we take or accept the title bride of Christ is says we belong to Christ.
John says, “The bride has made herself ready.” Inherent in this statement is a question, are we ready. If Jesus came back today, tomorrow, next week or whenever, are we ready to spend eternity with Him.
The fact that John says, she has made herself ready tells us that there are some specific steps that must be taken in order for Christ’s bride to get ready for His return. Verse 8 provides us with some insight into the steps we need to take. Verse 8 says, “Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
It seems to me getting ready involves two steps:
1) Taking off
2) Putting on
No one would put clean clothes over dirty clothes. Before we can put on clean clothes we must first take off the dirty ones and clean ourselves up. After we have done this we are ready to put on the fine linen that has been prepared and selected for us. Before we can put on the fine linen that God Himself has prepared for us, we must first take off our past. The past has a way of clouding and tarnishing our present and future. Very often it is not until we learn how to close the door or bury the past we are unable to realize how bright, brilliant, and full of potential our future is. There was a woman who purchased two candlestick holders. At first glance they seemed very ordinary. As a result of years of neglect they acquired a blackish almost charcoal color. The woman thought they must have been made of pewter. She took them home dusted them off and placed them on her mantle. Some months later she had a friend over for lunch. The friend happened to be a jeweler. Her friend asked her why she had allowed to candlestick holders to get in such a state of neglect. The woman was shocked and stated she dusted them and that is they way they are. Her friend laughed and realized that the woman has no idea how valuable the candlestick holders were. They got some polish and scrubbed them until the brilliance of the silver hidden under the charcoal was revealed. Years of neglect led the woman to believe that what she saw was all she was going to get. It was only after someone else showed her how to scrub off the past that she was able to see the brilliance of the future.
We all have a past. We all have done and said some things that we wish we could take back. Whatever we have done, it is done and there is nothing we can do about it. Like Good Friday those acts and statements must be buried in the tomb and place the stone in front of the tomb to seal it if we have any hope of every seeing Resurrection Sunday.
I am convinced that one of the things that keeps many people out of church and from coming to know Jesus personally is guilt. The idea that we need to get right before we come to Christ is a lie. We come to Christ just as we are and Christ makes us right. How do we take off the past? We face it, own it, and then forget it!
Once we take off the past we can then put on the future. We can embrace our future life with Christ. Embracing the future with Christ means –
1. We are committed to Christ – We know that Jesus is the only one for us
2. We are submitted to Christ – We have given up I and me for we and us
3. We are completed by Christ – We cannot bear the thought of living a part from or without Christ
Many people waste their time looking for Mr & Mrs. Right, the perfect person. There are two problems with this – a) THERE IS NO SUCH PERSON! And b) If we did find them we would scare them away once they found out we are not perfect.
In human relationships the goal is to find a person who compliments us.
In spiritual relationships the goal is to find the person who completes us.
Jesus completes us and Jesus makes us whole. The question is this, with all that Jesus offers are we ready to commit to Him and spend the rest of our life into eternity with Him, if so, we must start now by being His Bride.