Perhaps you’ve watched a skilled artist at work. You watch them paint or carve or shape, moving their hands in ways you can’t, creating something you couldn’t. Then they do something so drastic that you think they’ve ruined the whole thing. That stroke of color was too much. That chiseled off too much marble. That marred the shape of the clay. But somehow it still ends up remarkable. Or think of the skilled cook who bakes & frosts, assembles & garnishes a wonderful spread. Then he invites the guests to dig in, seemingly ruining all the hard work. God is guiding history from one glory to the next. We live in the bright glory of Christ’s resurrection. However, we’re awaiting the final consummation of all things, where this present glory will give place to an eternal weight of glory.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.Revelation 21:2
For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.Isaiah 62:5
Summary of the Text
There is something in a wedding that portends the end of the world. Secularists foretell that the world shall end, billions of years from now, either in a slow, cold demise, or a cataclysmic fiery meltdown. The Climate Activists tell us that the world will end in starvation, misery, and breakdown.
These texts, along with numerous others, reveal to us how the world will really end: marriage bells. A gloriously adorned bride, free of all flaw. A mighty Bridegroom, rejoicing and beaming with delight over His bride. An eternal covenant, which cannot and will not be broken or transgressed. A sweet consummation of fellowship free from sin, brimful of God’s great love, with no sorrow or sighing to be heard of.
John’s description is that of New Jerusalem walking down the aisle, as it were. The church made complete, coming to rest in the arms of her beloved Savior. Along the same lines, Isaiah uses the picture of the returning exiles of Israel to describe the end of the world, and he uses marital language as well to describe it. The sons would delight in the land of promise, as if marrying it. While even better, God would rejoice over His people like a bridegroom delights in His bride.
What is Marriage? What is it for?
If this be the case, the question arises: does your marriage (or your pursuit of marriage) preach a true or false Gospel? Hookups, porn, divorce, adultery, gay mirage, kink, polygamy, violent actions, and profane language/arguments are all ways of taking the Gospel glory which ought to be displayed in marriage and falsifying it. If marriage is to be a picture of Christ & the church, married Christians, or Christian singles who are pursuing marriage should ask whether they are presenting a faithful portrait of the end of the world.
There are two things which make a marriage what it is. A marriage is a solemn, lifelong vow between one man & one woman which is then consummated. You can have a vow that is never consummated, but that is more like roommates or business partners. You can also consummate without vows, but that is like trying to plant a garden in the middle of Times Square. It’s oxymoronic to speak of “redefining marriage.” You might as well speak of replacing the sun, or rearranging the constellations, or refilling the ocean.
Building Around a Bonfire
The WCF 24.2 gives a helpful three-fold purpose for marriage: companionship, propagation of godly children; and in this fallen world, a curb against uncleanness. “Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with anholy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.”
The order matters. The first tells us that we are not made for the isolation pods. God made us for productive fellowship (with Him and each other) (Cf. Gen. 2:18); marriage is ground zero for loving thy neighbor. Your marriage should not be built on the identity of “raising kids”, but on partaking of the joy which is covenant communion, and thus displaying how the world will end. Along these lines, we should note that singleness isn’t a virtue to be praised, but a hardship to be endured.
The second teaches us that this marriage union is to be physical & fruitful (Mal. 2:15). It is to increase fellowship, not decrease it. Putting off having children is putting off blessing. Furthermore, only a man & woman can bring about this blessing. The GQBLT dogma insists that folks must have the right to marry whomever they want, but this is to deliberately ignore what the one-flesh union of marriage is. We’re on the cusp of treating children like accessories to our consumerist vanity, instead of the blessed fruit of the covenanted, physical love of a husband & wife.
The third one is, perhaps, easily misunderstood; it might make us think, wrongly, that God is a repressive kill-joy. Rather, marriage is a safeguard against the misery of uncleanness (1 Cor. 7:2, 9). The misery which marriage guards us from is that of fatherless children, aborted unborn, an unending drumbeat of guilt for shameful deeds, the grief that is divorce, the impossibility of fruitful unions. The WCF puts this point in negative terms, but were we to put it positively we can see that in guarding us from misery, marriage is given to us for the cultivation of joy.
The modern world is full of smoldering ruins. The belief is that your momentary pleasure is central to your existence. This conviction is like thinking the best foundation for building your life is a napalm fire of sexual indulgence. The culture then wonders why the framing keeps catching fire, the concrete keeps getting charred, and the plumbing keeps melting. The marriage vows are the foundation, framing, and roof. The consummation is like the sturdy fireplace.
Men are Linear, Women are Circular
Marriage can only be constituted between one man and one woman. This is because marriage isn’t something which can be built using outsourced parts and a good bit of duct-tape. Man has been given a mandate (Gen. 1:28) and a Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). In both instances, we see that God intended husband & wife together to serve the task in their respective ways.
Men are linear. They must have a mission to pursue, a problem to solve, a rival to subdue, a challenge to overcome. Meanwhile women are circular. They must have a brood to gather in, a flock to nurture, a rhythm to dance to, a garden to fill & beautify.
Problems arise when husbands want their wives to be linear, and wives want their husbands to be circular. Men are to go out like a rocket, but wives are to draw them in again. Wives are to encircle their home, but a husband must lead his family forward so the encircling doesn’t become a smothering. Husbands though you are linear, you are not infinite, and so as you went out, you ought to come back in. Wives though you are circular that circularity is intended to grow not constrict, so follow the line your husband sets forth and help him take dominion.
The World To Come
God is orchestrating history towards a wondrous denouement. Christ dwelling with the church in unbroken joy, uninterrupted love, and unthreatened peace. Eden not only restored, but glorified. Eden was the seed, the New Jerusalem is the ever fruitful tree.
Lewis once gave the example of trying to describe for a child the delight which a married couple enjoy in their physical union. The child would still prefer chocolate. He can’t comprehend a joy that he isn’t yet ready for. This is what earthly marriage is. It is a preliminary joy intended to ready the church for the joy beyond the shadows. Real joy. God is like that artist which we began with. He has given us this glorious thing called marriage, and yet He assures us that it will soon be supplanted by the True Marriage.
The joy which you shall partake of in eternity isn’t contained by mere moments & glimpses. The hymn gets it spot on when it says, “Solid joys and lasting treasure” are what await Zion’s children. This joy is promised to those who lay hold of Christ by faith. It doesn’t come through good behavior. It doesn’t come from being woke or based. It comes to us through Christ, who sought us and bought us to be His holy bride.
Charge & Benediction
The charge is this. If you’re single, take deliberate steps to ready yourself to be a Christlike husband or wife. If you’re married, stay married…and do so by seeing marriage as God sees it: a glorious parable, which will one day give way to the Real Thing, the eternal fellowship of the Triune God with all the Redeemed Saints of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).