************ Sermon on Revelation 19:7-8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 13, 2009
"The Wedding Supper of the Lamb"
Did you pay attention to the words we just sang? Words that are based upon our Scripture reading:
The church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.
We are celebrating the Lord's Supper this evening. We are assured by this holy supper that someday, when Jesus comes again, we will sit down with Him at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
I Middle East Marriage Customs
A To understand the image in front of us, you need to understand something of Middle East marriage customs.
At the time of Jesus there were three steps to a wedding. First came the engagement. At this stage a formal agreement was made between the father of the groom and the father of the bride that their son and daughter would someday marry each other. You must remember that at that time marriages were arranged. You did not pick your marriage partner. One's parents decided whom one was to marry.
B Next came the betrothal. The betrothal was a ceremony held in the home of the bride's parents. In this ceremony the two families and the bridal couple made promises to each other in front of witnesses. Also, the groom gave presents to the bride. The bridal couple were now regarded as husband and wife but they did not yet have the privilege of living or sleeping together. The betrothal pledge was so binding that it took divorce proceedings to sever the relationship.
C Finally, about one year later there was the marriage ceremony. According to Jewish customs at that time, the wedding would take place on a Wednesday if the bride was a virgin and on a Thursday if she was a widow. The bridegroom and his friends would parade to the bride's house where they would be met by the bride and her friends. Usually this was done at night so there could be a spectacular display of torchlight. Then the whole group would go in procession to the groom's house where the wedding and wedding banquet was to be held.
II Make a Place Ready
A What happened during the waiting period between the betrothal and the wedding? Was it just a time of anxious waiting? Was it just a time of twiddling your thumbs? Not at all. Certain things happen during this time.
First, when a young Israelite man was engaged to be married, he went to his father's house and got a place ready for his bride. Usually this meant adding a room or a suite of rooms to the father's house. So, the groom and his brothers or servants would labor. They would add on to the father's house. Dirt would be packed, a foundation would be poured, bricks would be laid, a roof would be raised, doors and windows would be installed, and the inside would be finished. During the entire building project the bridegroom eagerly anticipates the bride's arrival; he can hardly wait for the time when they live together as husband and wife.
Older brothers and uncles have already added their rooms to the father's house. In fact, the father's house is no longer a simple home; it is more like a many-roomed mansion. It is no longer a single family dwelling; instead, it is a community, even an entire village. The bride will be taking up residence in a portion of a large mansion and will join a throng of people who are already there.
So, the first thing that happens during the betrothal period is that the groom makes a place ready for his bride.
B In this light, do you remember what Jesus said? Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many rooms ... I am going there to prepare a place for you" (Jn 14:2). Do you understand the image? Jesus is saying, "I am the bridegroom. The church is my bride." Like a bridegroom, Jesus went to His Father's house to prepare a place for His bride. And, like a bridegroom Jesus awaits the bride's arrival with great anticipation.
This reminds me of the old song: "I've Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop." There is a mansion up there. Filled with people – a whole host of brothers and sisters. Rooms were added for the patriarchs, for the prophets, for the faithful in exile, for the apostles, for the early martyrs, for the Reformers, for believing grandparents and parents, for children of believers who died in infancy or before birth. Is a room being added for you?
Like the bridegrooms of Israel, Jesus makes a place ready for His bride.
III Pay the Bridal Price
A The second thing that happened during the waiting period between the betrothal and the wedding was the payment of the bridal price. During the betrothal, and sometimes before, a price is set for the bride. So, after the betrothal the groom, and his family, gather the price together and pay it to the bride's family.
The feminists in our society rebel at this thought. They think it makes the bride sound like a piece of property to be bought and sold. They don't understand the bride's family is losing a worker and needs to be compensated for that. As Proverbs puts it,
(Prov 31:10) A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.A good wife, a hard and willing worker, was worth her weight in gold and silver.
B Now, I want you to listen very carefully to the following verses:
(Acts 20:28) Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
(1Cor 6:20) ... you were bought at a price. (Cf 1Cor 7:23)
(1Pt 1:18-19) For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed ... (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
(2Pt 2:1) ... there will be false teachers among you ... denying the sovereign Lord who bought them ...
(Rev 5:9) And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."
Do you hear what is being said? The bridal price has been paid! Jesus paid for His bride. Not with silver or gold, not with rubies or pearls, but with His precious blood upon the cross. Don't we celebrate this in the Lord's Supper? Don't we celebrate the fact that the bridal price has been paid?
IV Make Herself Ready
A The third thing that happened during the waiting period between the betrothal and the wedding was that the bride made herself ready. I remember different girls talking about a "hope chest" when I attended Calvin College. It was a chest used to collect items such as clothing, table linens, towels, bed linens, quilts and occasionally dishware by unmarried young women in anticipation of married life. Such a collection used to be a common coming-of-age rite; it was typically a step on the road to marriage between dating a man and engagement.
Likewise, at the time of Jesus a bride would make herself ready for marriage. Before the wedding she would gather the items she needed to set up her own home. On the day of the wedding, of course, she would wash herself, braid her hair, put on a wedding gown, apply makeup, and do whatever else she could to make herself look beautiful for the groom.
B What does the church, the bride of Christ do during the time between the betrothal and the wedding?
(Rev 19:7-8) ... the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (8) Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Now, there is a tension, a strain, a dichotomy within these two verses. On the one hand, we see that something is given to the bride to make her beautiful – "fine linen ... was given her to wear." She has been given clothes that make her beautiful to her groom.
This is a not a new thought for John's audience – at least, not if they knew the Old Testament. Listen to God's promise through Isaiah:
(Is 61:10) I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.Do you hear the comparison to marriage? Did you hear the phrases "garment of salvation" and "robe of righteousness"?
Don't we hear the same thing in Ephesians 5? Paul is talking about husbands and wives and makes a comparison to Christ and the church:
(Eph 5:25-27) ... Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (27) and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.In this passage, Paul anticipates the wedding day, the marriage feast of the Lamb.
So, who redeems and beautifies the church so she can stand next to Christ at the wedding? Who makes us fit for heaven? Who prepares us for the wedding day? Christ does. Not us. Never us. It is all of Christ and not of us. It is all of grace and not our works. Don't ever forget this.
On the other hand, as I already mentioned, there is a tension here. John not only mentions something given to the bride but also something done by the bride. What does the bride do? She "made herself ready." The bride of Christ does something to make herself look beautiful for Jesus Christ, the bridegroom. What does she do? She puts on fine linen, bright and clean, which represents good works. She makes herself fit for the wedding day.
Look at our text again. "Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her." "Was given." Here is another instance of the divine passive in the Revelation, another instance where God is the prime actor. In other words, God has granted the bride of Christ the grace to perform the deeds by which she makes herself ready for her wedding day.
Don't we see this same tension in other places? Listen to the following verses:
(Phil 2:12-13) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.We all know, as the Lord's Supper reminds us, that people who are saved by grace cannot help but clothe themselves in robes of righteousness. Or, to put it more bluntly, saved people do good works.
(2Pt 1:10) Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall ...
(Eph 2:8-10) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- (9) not by works, so that no one can boast. (10) For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
A wedding is going to take place: Christ is the bridegroom and the church is the bride.
Where are we in the marriage process? Well, the bride has already been chosen – from eternity in fact (Eph 1:4,11). The betrothal has already taken place because long ago already God has said, "I will be your God and you will be my people" (Ex 6:7; Jer 7:23, 11:4, 30:22; Ezek 36:28). Now, now we are in the time of waiting when the groom prepares a place, the bridal price is paid, and the bride gets herself ready.
This evening, in the Lord's Supper, we anticipate all of this. In the Lord's Supper we anticipate sitting down with Jesus at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
My final thought: did you notice the beatitude? A beatitude is a word of blessing. There are seven of them in the Revelation.
(Rev 19:9) Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."What a blessing it is to be at the Lord's Table tonight. And, what a bigger blessing it will be to be seated with the Lord at His heavenly banquet table where we will celebrate forever the wedding supper of the Lamb.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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