Marriage of the Lamb

The marriage of the Lamb is an eschatological theme, tied to the second coming of Christ (Matt. 25: 1-13).  What is the significance of this imagery and when was it fulfilled? 

Marriage Imagery in the Old Testament - Covenant with Israel

In the Old Testament, the imagery of marriage was a symbol for the law of Moses and covenant with Israel. God espoused (betrothed) Israel to himself in the exodus from Egypt.

"I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown" (Jer. 2:2).

God "married" Israel when he entered into a covenant with her:

"Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine" (Ezek. 16:8). 

The language of "spreading his skirt" over Israel (consummating the marriage) should probably be interpreted as Moses setting up the tabernacle and the "glory cloud" filling it (Ex. 40:17-38), representing God dwelling with his people and cohabitating with his bride.  Marriage requires faithfulness in the spouses; adultery and fornication are causes for divorce.  As Israel and Judah proved unfaithful to the Old Covenant, God divorced the nation. This occurred in the Assyio-Babylonian exile, when God "put away" his wife for her adulteries:

"Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord: Thus saith the Lord God; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou did give unto them: Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them around about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealously" (Ezek. 16:35-38).

Although Israel and Judah were faithless, God's purpose to redeem mankind required that the Jews not be cast off forever just yet.  Christ had to be born in Bethlehem and die upon a Roman cross.  Therefore, God "remarried" Israel by bringing back the nation out of captivity, returning them to the land. In the following passage, widowhood refers to divorce; the law deemed a divorced woman "dead" to the law of her ex-husband:

"Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate that the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tents, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left: and thy see shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; and Lord of host is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called the as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from the for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer" (Isa. 54:1-8)

This passage, typical of many Old Testament prophecies, looks beyond the restoration of Israel to Palestine following the Assyrio-Babylonian exile, and anticipates the salvation of Christ. The "married" woman refers to Israel before the captivity; the "desolate" woman refers to Israel during the captivity. The reproach of Israel's widowhood (divorce) would be forgotten in the kindness God showed by returning her to the land, and bringing Christ into the world.  The children of the "desolate" would be more than the children of pre-captivity Israel: Christ would come, the gospel would be proclaimed among the Gentiles, and the ranks of the faithful would break forth on every side.  This leads us to the New Testament.

Marriage Imagery in the New Testament

John the Baptist was the first to make reference to marriage imagery in the New Testament:

"He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled" (Jn. 3:29).

Christ is the bridegroom; John is his forerunner and friend; the bride is spiritual Israel.  That Jesus is the bridegroom identifies him as divine, for it is God who marries Israel.  Moreover, that he is called the bridegroom, and not husband, shows that his appearance heralds the coming of a new covenant wherein he will become husband to his new bride.  In the mosaic economy, God had married national Israel, but in the New Testament economy, the covenant people consist of men of every race and language who respond to the gospel call.  Some call this "replacement theology" whereby the church replaces national, ethic Jews; we call it basic, gospel instruction:

"For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:6-8).

In terms of chronology, the marriage of Christ to the bride shapes up this way:

·        Death on Calvary (AD 33): Legal termination of the Old Testament, first marriage terminated; Christ espoused to new bride.

·        Pentecost thru Second Coming (AD 33-70): Betrothal period; bride washed and purified by the blood of Christ, looking to the consummation.

·        Second Coming: Marriage consummated (AD 70); Christ cohabits with wife in the New Jerusalem (church).

Let us survey the scripture where these lessons are found.

Calvary: Legal Termination of Old Testament, Espousal of Christ to Bride

There are few things clearer than the fact that the Old Testament legally terminated at the cross. Unbelieving Jews may have tried to keep the temple ritual and law alive, but there is no contradicting the fact that Jesus' death on Calvary fulfilled the law's demand of blood sacrifice, ending the legal efficacy of the mosaic law.  Daniel makes this perfectly clear when he said "in the midst of the week" Messiah would cause the "sacrifice and oblation" to legally cease (Dan. 9:27).  "Midst of the week" points to the middle of the final prophetic week, and was fulfilled by Jesus' death at the end of his 3 1/2 year ministry.  This is fully confirmed over and over again by Paul, but nowhere more clearly than in Romans seven:

"Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be marriage to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom. 7:14)

This passage teaches us that the law of the first husband (Old Testament) ended at the death of Christ.  Jesus was national Israel's husband, the God of the Old Testament clothed upon with humanity. When he died on Calvary, national Israel was widowed and husbandless, and the Old Testament was annulled.  Israel was "loosed from the law," made "free from the law," and "dead to the law," so they could enter a new covenant and new marriage under the gospel of the resurrected Christ.  Those who respond to the gospel call were espoused to Christ and become the church and bride. Thus, national, ethnic Israel and the law of Moses were left behind at Calvary, and spiritual Israel and the gospel of Christ began.

Pentecost to AD 70: Betrothal Period

During the period from the cross until the second coming, the church was in a state of "betrothal" or "engagement."  Paul thus says,

"I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (I Cor. 11:2; cf. Eph. 5:24-27)

In Jewish law, the betrothal period was equal in law to marriage and a woman who took another man during this period was just as guilty of adultery as a woman who was in a consummated marriage (Deut. 22:12-21; Matt. 1:18, 19).  We sometimes hear it said that the couple lived together during the betrothal period, without consummating the marriage, but the Bible nowhere bears this out.  Although betrothed, Joseph and Mary were not living together when she conceived by the Holy Ghost, for she went and lived with her kinswoman, Elizabeth, for three months (Lk.1: 39, 56).  When she returned home and it was found that she was pregnant (for she now began to show), the angel instructed Joseph not to fear "to take unto thee Mary thy wife" and "Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord has bidden him, and took unto him his wife" (Matt. 1:23, 24).  Thus, although deemed man and wife in contemplation of law during the betrothal period, the husband and wife lived apart.  This is confirmed by the parable of the ten virgins, which places the marriage ceremony and consummation at Christ's second coming, after going into a "far country to receive a kingdom and return" (Matt. 25:1-13; Lk. 19:12).

Washed and Justified from Sin:

Destruction of Jerusalem AD 70, or Calvary AD 33?

There is an error current among Preterists that says the old law was still valid, and that the church was not justified, but continued under the debt of sin until AD 70.  Yet, Paul's whole analogy in Rom. 7:1-4 turns upon the hinge of the Old Testament's end at Calvary, terminating the law of the first husband, so that believers could enter a new covenant with a new husband in Christ.  If it is true that the Old Testament was still valid after the cross, then the church was an adulteress in taking a new husband in Christ.  Such is the quandary created by those teaching "covenant eschatology," keeping the mosaic law and ritual alive beyond the cross of Christ.

Let God be true though every man a liar: The church was not an adulteress, the law had ended, and she was free to take a new husband under the gospel of the risen Savior.  What about justification from sin: Would Christ consummate a marriage at his return with a bride soiled with sin?  Of course he wouldn't.  Thus, the bride was washed and justified during the betrothal so Christ could receive her chaste and pure at his return.

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that the might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25,-27).

Brides are fastidious about their adornment on their wedding day. Everything must be perfect, "without spot or wrinkle." So, Christ washed and cleansed his bride from sin at Calvary, so that she might be glorious at his coming to consummate the marriage. We see this picture in Revelation, where the bride is robed in white raiment in preparation for the marriage, at the end of Christ's eschatological coming[1]:

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints" (Rev. 19:7, 8).

Thus, from AD 33 until the second coming, the church was in a state of purity and sanctification, washed by Christ's blood, waiting to consummate the marriage.  She was clothed in fine linen, clean and white, showing that she was justified from sin.  There is nothing to the error that the law was valid and the church continued under the debt of sin until AD 70.

AD 70: The Consummation of Lamb's Marriage with the Bride

The second coming was the point at which the Lord came to dwell with his bride, and cohabit with her, symbolically enjoying the intimacy of sexual union.  We see this in Rev. 21:2, 3 where the new Jerusalem comes down to earth:

"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God…And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.  And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (Rev. 21:2, 3, 9, 10).

That she is called the "new Jerusalem" shows that she has replaced the old, earthly Jerusalem, which turned harlot, and was destroyed (cf. Rev. 11:8; 16:19; 18:21).  The imagery of the new Jerusalem descending out of heaven does not mean the bride was formerly in heaven and is now come down.  It is not the bride that is descending, but the habitation of God. The city above and the church below are made one, God inhabiting both.  The woman, driven from Jerusalem into the wilderness in the persecution over Stephen (Acts 8:1; Rev. 12:6, 12), is no longer a homeless exile; she becomes the earthly seat of Christ's kingdom and throne, the new Jerusalem.  The marriage now consummated, she is adorned and attired with gold and precious jewels, for she is heaven's queen:

"Thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of host is his name…O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stone with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make they windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy boarders of pleasant stones" (Isa. 54:5, 11, 12; cf Rev. 21:18-21).

Time of Fulfillment

Since consummation of the marriage of the Lamb is an important proof that the book of Revelation is fulfilled and the second coming a past event, it is worth pausing to provide proof of its timing. 

We have already noted that the term "new Jerusalem" implies that it replaced "old Jerusalem" and serves to date fulfillment of the book.  Revelation makes numerous specific references to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is the "great city," the spiritual "Sodom and Egypt where also our Lord was crucified" (Rev. 11:8). The temple is portrayed as still standing, and the city to be given into the power of the Gentles to tread it under foot forty-two months, or three and a half years (Rev. 11:1, 2; Lk. 21:24).  Jerusalem and Jewry are "Babylon, the Mother of Harlots," drunk with the blood of the saints.  She is portrayed driving a scarlet colored "beast," which devours the saints (Rev. 17:1-6; 11:7).  The beast bears the number of a man - 666 - whose equivalent in Hebrew characters adds up to Nero Caesar (NRWN QSR) (Rev. 13:1-10, 18).  Identification of Nero with the beast is corroborated by John in chapter seventeen. The beast has seven heads which are the empire's kings: five were already fallen (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caius, Claudius), one still reigns (Nero), and another was yet to come, who would continue only a short space (Galba, ruled 7 months).  Finally, in Babylon the Harlot was found all the blood of prophets and saints, and all those slain upon the earth (Rev. 18:24).  This echoes exactly Jesus' saying about Jerusalem:

"Wherefore, behold, I send  unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation" (Matt. 23:34-36).

There are many more proofs tying the events described in Revelation to the time of Nero's persecution and the destruction of Jerusalem, but they are beyond the scope of the present study.  Suffice it to say, the consummation of the Lamb's marriage is clearly tied to the time when the Jewish nation was taken away for its sins, and the Roman Empire experience the "year of four emperors" following the death of Nero.


What was the marriage of the Lamb? The marriage was the point at which the Lord returned from heaven to dwell with his bride, and the church was clothed with the new Jerusalem, the capital city and earthly seat of Christ's throne.

[1] We say "end of Christ's eschatological coming" for it is clear that the coming stretched at least over AD 66-70, the duration of war with Rome, but the marriage occurred only at this period's end.


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