Mary's wedding is in a mere 11 days! I confess that I'm not much of a logistics person, so even as the mother of the bride I haven't been terribly helpful with the nitty gritty details of wedding planning. I am good for comments like, "That looks pretty," or "That sounds nice..." I also specialize in random acts of thrift. I rustled up a borrowed punch fountain yesterday (thanks, Allura!), and I think I have a source to rent reasonably priced linen table cloths for the wedding reception. I lucked out at our local Wal-Mart SuperCenter last week. After Passover, they put all of their peach-grape sparkling juice (in fancy bottles) on clearance for $1 a bottle. I snapped up 20 bottles for the reception toast. I even snagged a few bottles of pomegranate juice to add to a nice Jewish punch. (Pomegranates are in the Bible!) And so it goes...
Thad's cousin Debbie, whose husband Michael is Jewish, just stopped by this afternoon. As promised, she brought a gorgeous hand-crafted headpiece for Mary to wear on her wedding day, as well as one for Naomi, who is the flower girl. It reminds me of the beautiful Scripture in Isaiah 61:10, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Here comes the bride!
Anyway, all of this talk about Mary's upcoming messianic (Christian) Jewish wedding has gotten me thinking about a much more momentous wedding -- a "marriage made in heaven." For those of you who aren't as familiar with theology, let me see if I can explain. (And please keep reading -- this should be interesting!)
Some people wonder if there is going to be marriage in heaven, and what it will be like. Will we be married forever to whomever we married here on earth? In the Bible, a group of Jewish men called the Sadducees were trying to test Jesus with a hard question about a woman who had married seven brothers in a row -- each one had died, so she wasn't practicing polygamy! They wanted to know whose wife she would be in heaven after the resurrection. Now the Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, didn't even believe in the resurrection, so this was a trick question from the start. But Jesus knew and hearts and reproved their ignorance, saying: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." In other words, earthly marriages don't count in heaven. We can still be with the person who was our husband or wife, if we have both trusted in Christ for salvation, but we won't be married to them anymore. But that doesn't mean there won't be marriage in heaven! It's just a different sort entirely.
In the Bible, there are numerous references to the "Bride of Christ." What is that talking about? Jesus never married in his earthly life, but he will in eternity. The Bride of Christ is actually the church, which is made up of all those whom he has redeemed with his sacrifice on the cross. (He is also known as the Sacrifice Lamb, in reference to his fulfillment of Passover as the ultimate, once for all, atonement for our sin. The angel of death "passes over" believers because they are covered in his blood, just as the doorposts of the houses were when the Israelites escaped from bondage on Egypt.) Someday Jesus will come back from Heaven, where he has been preparing an eternal home, to claim his Bride. Then there will be a grand and glorious wedding with a celebration feast. So there will be ONE marriage in Heaven, but each one of us can be included as part of the Bride of Christ if we trust in him for our salvation.
Where do we find this in Scripture? In Matthew 9:15, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom, and John the Baptist also testifies to this fact in John 3:29. Revelation also has several references to this as well:
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready... Revelation 19:7
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2
Then came one of the seven angels... saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:9
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17
The most extensive reference to the church being the bride of Christ is found embedded in Ephesians 5:25-33:
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
As I have been typing these thoughts, a snatch of song drifted back into my head, one that I wrote for my sister Barb's wedding in April 1982. Unfortunately, I don't remember all of the verses (some of which hinted at the marriage of Christ and the church) but the first verse started like this:
"Behold the bride as she stands dressed in white.
On her wedding day, her face is uplifted
Ready for the union of two hearts
Of two hearts, together in love."
I'll see if I can find the rest of this somewhere and post it later. Maybe I'll even be able to find the words to the song I wrote for my own wedding, which started, "Show us your purposes for our union, that we may glorify the Lord Most High." Oh, the nostalgia!