The Marriage Supper Of The Lamb
On March 23, 1743, The Messiah was performed for the first time in London, England. In attendance was the King of England. He was deeply moved as the “Hallelujah Chorus” was being sung, and at the words, “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” the king rose to His feet and stood until the end of the cantata. From that time to this, it has been customary to stand whenever the “Hallelujah Chorus” is performed. When Handel composed The Messiah, he was so immersed in the 23 days of its writing that he hardly ate or slept. At times he would run to the harpsichord, waving his arms and singing, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” Handel said, “I think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself” (Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, pp. 326, 480).
In the passage before us, John did not see God, but he recorded a similar experience. “And after these things I heard a great voice of many people in heaven, saying, Hallelujah!” (v. 1). The phrase “after these things” refers back to Babylon’s destruction in chapters 17 and 18, bringing the Tribulation to a close. Then the scene shifts from earth to heaven.
Heaven is invited to rejoice over Babylon’s destruction, as John reports, “I heard a great voice of many people in heaven, saying, Hallelujah!” Hallelujah is a transliteration of the Hebrew word Praise the Lord. It is found frequently in the Old Testament, but only here in the New Testament, where it introduces four victory hymns in heaven (19:1, 3, 4, 6).
Let’s examine the groups participating in these Hallelujah choruses. First, “many people in heaven” (v. 1) is a general statement but could be a specific reference to the martyred dead in the Great Tribulation (cp. 6:9–10; 7:9, 14). Second, “the four and twenty elders” (v. 4) represent the church and sing the song of redemption (cp. 4:4; 5:8–10). Third, the “four living creatures” (v. 4) are cherubim surrounding God’s throne associated with His presence, holiness, and power (4:6–9). Fourth, the phrase “his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great” (v. 5) refers, not to a specific group, but to all the servants in heaven. They are encouraged to continue praising God for His mighty victory, no matter what their status.
There are five reasons for the servants’ praise. First, they praise God for deliverance: “Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord, our God” (v. 1). This celebration is for God’s great deliverance over the Beast, Babylon, and the Antichrist. This will take place just before Christ victoriously takes back planet Earth to establish God’s Kingdom. He alone is due all the glory, honor, and power. Second, they praise God for judging Babylon “the great harlot” (v. 2). This judgment will be “true [faithful] and righteous [fair]…for he hath…avenged the blood of his servants at her hand” (v. 2). Third, they praise God because Babylon’s demise is final, complete, and irreversible: “her smoke [will rise] up forever and ever” (v. 3). The city’s destruction is permanent, as is the eternal destiny of those connected with her. The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures “fell down and worshiped God [the Father] that sat on the throne, saying, Amen [so be it]. Hallelujah!” (v. 4). Fourth, they praise God for His sovereignty over heaven and earth. “Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (v. 6). Their praise will reverberate throughout heaven “like the voice of many waters, and…mighty peals of thunder” (v. 6). The sound coming from the host of heaven will be deafening, like the noise of a mighty waterfall and cracks of thunder echoing throughout the sky. Fifth, the host of heaven encourage one another to “be glad and rejoice, and give honor” to God for the upcoming “marriage of the Lamb” because Christ’s “wife hath made herself ready” (v. 7) for the wedding.
The marriage of the Lamb is patterned after the Jewish marriage customs of biblical times. Phase one is the arrangement. After the fathers of the bride and groom consummated a match, the bride’s father was given the bride price as a dowry. The bride price for God the Father was the blood of His Son (Eph. 5:25). Phase two is the preparation, or betrothal. This phase would last for a year or longer, during which time the bride was observed for her purity. During the year, the bridegroom would prepare a home for his bride, attached to his father’s house. In like manner, Christ is in heaven preparing a place for His bride, the church (Jn. 14:1–3). On the wedding day, the groom would leave his father’s house to fetch his bride. After taking her from her home, the groom would lead the bridal procession back to his own home. This is a beautiful picture of the Rapture of the church (1 Th. 4:13–18) prior to Christ’s Second Coming. Phase three, the marriage ceremony, was conducted at the groom’s home. Only the immediate families and two witnesses were invited to observe the ceremony. Phase four was the marriage feast, to which friends of the bride and groom were invited to rejoice at the son’s marriage. After a week of feasting, the couple would settle into their new home, prepared by the groom. For a greater understanding of the marriage of the Lamb, a number of questions must be answered.
Who are the participants? The Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ, identified as such 28 times in the Book of the Revelation. The bride is the church betrothed to Christ. Some might object to this identification, saying that Israel is described as the wife of God (Isa. 54:6; Jer. 31:31). It is true that Israel is called the wife of Jehovah, but she is a wife, not a bride. As a wife, Israel has been unfaithful to God throughout the centuries. She will be restored, cleansed, and display marital fidelity to God in the Millennial age. The New Testament pictures the church as a virgin waiting to be united with the bridegroom at His coming (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25–32). This wedding union for the church will be consummated in the future.
How has the wife “made herself ready” (v. 7)? For the past 2,000 years, God has been preparing His church. He made all the arrangements for the purchase of the bride by paying the bride price, the blood of His Son. The Lord is in the process of perfecting the church in order to present her as “a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). She is now undergoing a sanctification process accomplished by being washed by the water of God’s Word (Eph. 5:26). Complete sanctification of the church will take place at the Rapture, when believers are changed and presented to Christ. This will take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ, after which a glorious church will be presented to Christ without spot, wrinkle, or blemish (Eph. 5:27).
How will the church be dressed? She will be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints” (v. 8). This is not a reference to righteousness imputed at the time of salvation, but Christ’s righteousness produced in the inner life and character of believers. The fine linen represents the righteous deeds of godliness and goodness produced by the Holy Spirit. These are the good works unto which we are created in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:10), with which the believers are to adorn themselves in order to bring honor to Christ’s name (C. I. Scofield, New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1371). We will appear before God clothed in whatever righteous acts remain after our works have been tested by fire. During our earthly pilgrimage, we are weaving the wedding garments that will adorn us at the marriage supper.
At this point, John was instructed to write the fourth of seven beatitudes presented in Revelation: “Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (v. 9). Who are those “called unto the marriage supper”? Some believe they are church saints and saints from other ages. Others believe that the invited guests are saints from other ages, but not the church. This is the best view because the bride is definitely identified as the church, whereas those called to the supper are saints from other ages. The invitation is given to Old Testament saints, martyred Tribulation saints, and believers who survive the Tribulation. The statement, “These are the true sayings of God” (v. 9) confirms the veracity of all that has been revealed in Revelation 17:1–19:10.
Where and when will the marriage supper be held? Two major positions are taught concerning this issue. Some scholars believe that the marriage supper will be held in heaven while the seven years of Tribulation are taking place on the earth. They give the following reasons for their view. First, the marriage supper mentioned here is related to Jewish marriage customs in the Bible. Second, the marriage did not take place in the bride’s home but in the home of the bridegroom after he brought her to that prepared place. Third, it was customary for the marriage supper, given by the groom’s father, to be held at the bridegroom’s home immediately following the marriage ceremony. Fourth, the marriage supper began on the same night as the wedding ceremony. Fifth, the Old Testament teaches that there will be another marriage supper at the beginning of the Millennium, associated with a second marriage of God the Father and the nation of Israel. Thus, the future marriage of God the Father and the marriage of the Lamb have two different brides. The bride at the marriage of God the Father is the nation of Israel; the bride at the marriage of Christ the Lamb is the church. According to this view, the marriage supper of the Lamb will take place in heaven after the Rapture of the church and will include the church (the bride), along with Old Testament saints and martyred Tribulation saints as guests. (For a detailed interpretation of this view, see Dr. Renald E. Showers’ article, “The Marriage and Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” Israel My Glory, vol. 49, no. 3, June/July 1991.)***ADD LINK***
Other scholars believe there is just one marriage supper, to be held on earth after Christ returns with His bride, the church. According to this position, the wedding feast will begin God’s earthly Kingdom and will take place during the 45 days mentioned in Daniel 12:11–12. The guests will include the church and friends of the bride and groom from every period of history. John the Baptist is a good example of an invited guest. He did not consider himself the bridegroom or the bride, but a friend of the bridegroom (Jn. 3:28–30).
Upon receiving this revelation, John “fell at his [the angel’s] feet to worship him” (v. 10). The angel sharply rebuked John: “See thou do it not! I am thy fellow servant” (v. 10). The angel revealed that he and the other angels are simply bond slaves, along with all Christians, in Christ’s service. Angels and Christians possess “the testimony of Jesus” (v. 10), which is Jesus’ own testimony of Himself. He is the one who provides prophetic revelation of Himself in the Old and New Testaments and propagates it through His servants.
Further explanation is given concerning the testimony of Jesus: “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (v. 10). John, along with other apostles, received prophetic insight and inspiration and gave testimony that prophecy is intended to glorify Jesus Christ. The title of this book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1). He is the center figure of all revelation. In this book, prophecy is designed to unfold Christ’s character, glory, purpose, and program. Therefore, “Worship God” alone (v. 10)! With these words, the scene is set for the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the glorified King of kings and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!