The church is given many titles throughout Scriptures: the Body of Christ, God’s Building, the Flock of God, the Beloved, Kings and Priests, Sons and Heirs. All these many titles are intended to convey various nuances of who we are and what we have in Jesus. God uses examples from our human experiences to give us a point of connection with Himself. At best these are imperfect pictures of God’s perfect plans. Let's attempt to wrap our limited human minds around the beautiful imagery God paints for us by calling us, His Church, the Bride of Christ.
In John 3:29, John the Baptist identifies himself as one like a friend of a Bride Groom (the Best Man, you might say) who is heralding the arrival of the Bride Groom to the ceremonies.
In Ephesians 5:25-33, the Apostle Paul challenges husbands to follow the example of Christ, who loved his beloved, us the Church, so much that he literally laid down His life to care for her needs.
In Revelation 21:9, the Church is revealed as the Bride of Christ who inhabits the city of the New Jerusalem, the eternal habitation that Christ has prepared for her.
These references, among others, present tremendous imagery of both a process and a promise.
Let’s look at the process first:
In Biblical times there were several key elements that, together, formed the component parts of a marriage:
-The Proposal: Traditionally, the head of household (usually the father) of a perspective groom would go and scout out the best prospect they could “afford” based on their own wealth and position.* Then they would present their proposal to the prospect’s head of household (again, usually the father). The Proposal would spell out the qualifications of the prospective groom, as well as the details of the price the groom and his father would be willing to pay for the honor of securing the bride. It speaks not only of his own wealth, but of the value he places on the prospective bride. If the proposal was accepted, then the agreed upon price would be paid.
-The Mohar: Confirmation of the agreement: made by way of oaths and guarantees the groom would follow through on all his commitments. The couple was now “officially” bound to each other. The marriage covenant was secured. But the union was not yet consummated.
-Betrothal Period: Once the promises were sworn by oaths and guarantees, the groom would leave, sometimes for an extended period of time, to prepare a home for his bride. Not until all his preparations were completed would he return for her. When everything was ready, he would travel to the home of his awaiting bride, “claim” her as his own, and take her away to the home of his father, where he had prepared a special residence for her.
-The Marriage Supper: Upon arrival, they would celebrate with a great feast, often lasting as long as a week. For the first time, they would enjoy intimate union with each other.
What we discover in the pages of Scripture are biblical correlations to each of these steps of the marriage process
In John 3:16 we find the proposal . . . God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.
In John 4:10 we find the Mohar . . . In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sin.
Next, we find the Confirmation of the Marriage Covenant in 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 . . . For all the promises of God in Jesus are Yes . . . Now He who establishes us makes us sure in Christ is God, who has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee . . . & 2 Corinthians 5:5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing the “consummation” of our marriage . . . eternal union with God is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
In John 14:1-3 we find the description of our Betrothal Period . . . Let not your hearts be troubled . . . In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
In I Thess 5:16-18 we find the Bride Groom returning for His Bride . . . . For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of god. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
And finally, in Revelation 19:6-9 we find the celebration of the Marriage Supper . . . Alleluaia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints . . .