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"Marriage Supper of the Lamb"

Revelation 19:6-9 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God."


When it comes to the book of Revelation, many Christians in our day are enamored with speculations about political figures and events as they try to pin point the identities of key characters and nations while attempting to align their interpretations with current events. Although I grew up amidst such speculative theology, I have in later years adopted an approach to eschatology more consistent with the historical faith of our forefathers. I have witnessed failed predictions and blatantly erroneous interpretations too many to number. But for me, that is not the worst of the approach I have left behind. It is the theological significance missed when one is side-tracked by such speculative and distracting diversions. The book of Revelation is filled with rich theological themes that connect it with the rest of Scripture. And the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is one of those pervasive themes. At the end of redemptive history we see the culmination of a theme that began in the Garden and runs throughout the unfolding drama of God's purpose – eating.

Redemptive Eating

Eating carries great theological significance in Scripture. Human beings were not designed to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. We are contingent creatures, dependent at every moment upon the God who created and sustains us. There is no biblical warrant for believing that will change once we are glorified. We will not cease to be human. God is not saving His people from the physical realm but redeeming them from the curse. His purpose is not to do away with the material world but to renew it and free it from the corruption of sin. The problem is not the physical realm but living as if that realm is all there is. Therefore, the question of whether or not we will need to eat in our glorified state misses the point. The problems of the curse will be gone. In the new heavens and the new earth, there will be abundance. The new heavens and earth will truly be the land flowing with milk and honey. Human beings, created in God's image, were made to participate in two realms simultaneously, the physical and the spiritual. This is essential to the full and complete expression of our humanity. We were made to be sustained by God in both realms (man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God). In the Garden, God provided food for the body and communion with Him for the spirit. But man sinned in eating, choosing to disregard God's Word (spiritual nourishment) in favor of the forbidden fruit. He died spiritually and was cast out of the place of God's presence.

Just as humanity fell through disobedient eating, God determined that redemption would come through obedient eating. Throughout Scripture, covenantal sacrificial meals represent God's redemptive work. From the Passover to the Lord's Table, and ultimately, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, God redeems His people as they partake of His provision of food, natural and spiritual.

Progressive Revelation Through Eating

Eating is a theological theme found in Scripture from creation to the Fall and redemption to the consummation. In redemption, God never suggests that physical eating may be discarded. It remains necessary for sustaining the life of the body. The biblical principle is seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness and these things will be added unto you. What's more, the idolatry of Adam and Eve must be set aright. In the Garden, they idolized food rather than acknowledging that it was provided by God. And so, natural food remains an integral part of God's table in redemption.

In Eden, Adam and Eve ate at God's table without the sacrifice of life. The earth readily yielded abundant fruit. However, after the Fall, coming to God's table required atonement. An unblemished sacrifice became the food of God's table. As in the Passover, partaking of that sacrifice was an acknowledgment that the eater deserved the fate of the sacrifice. The purity of that sacrifice was assimilated into the eater as he identified with that sacrifice by ingesting it. Christ is that true Passover Lamb.

Throughout history, God has revealed His purpose through eating. The manna in the wilderness and the prophetic promise of a coming consummate meal pointed to the reality of Christ's work. When Christ came, He passed the test of eating that Adam and Israel had failed. He confirmed His identity as the heavenly provision by turning water into wine and feeding the multitudes.

A Meal of Suspended Fulfillment

The ultimate fulfillment of redemptive eating will occur at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. In His first coming, Christ inaugurated that feast but He has not yet consummated it. As we found in Simeon's Song, God's salvation comes with the arrival of the Messiah. Jesus is God's salvation, "prepared" in the presence of all peoples. God began spreading His Table of redemption at Christ's first coming for Jesus is our Paschal Lamb. This saving Table will eventually flourish into that glorious feast foretold by the prophet Isaiah, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

There is also a sense in which the gathering around that Table has already begun. God's people are already partaking of Christ's redemptive sacrifice in anticipation of that consummate feast yet to come. On the night Jesus was betrayed, He assembled His disciples around the Passover Table to fulfill that feast and begin transforming the shadow into reality. He stopped short of completing this transformation but He instructed His disciples to continue the inaugurated portion of the New Covenant meal in perpetuity until He comes again. Then He will finish that transformation in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Each time we come to His Table we are looking back at the cross and forward to the consummation of this meal in which He suspended fulfillment until He comes again.

Though Jesus has ascended and is currently seated at the right hand of the Father, He continues to summons His people to God's Redemptive Table through the Gospel. These people regularly assemble at this Table to remember Christ's sacrificial death. When we do, Jesus is with us in a spiritual presence. We are to continue this until the day He bodily returns to resume that feast He began on the night before His crucifixion.

Jesus lifted two specific elements from the Passover meal when instituting the New Covenant meal. The unleavened bread is His sinless and perfect body, the bread from heaven (Jn 6:33). The wine is the third cup of the Passover meal, the cup of redemption. In the Passover, it signified the blood of the lamb poured out in sacrifice. Jesus is our Paschal Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) and the cup is the blood of the New Covenant poured out for us. Jesus abstained from the fourth cup, the cup of consummation. That awaits the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

From Sacrificial Meal to Wedding Feast

Throughout Scripture, the overarching pattern for redemptive eating is the sacrificial meal (e.g. the Passover, Peace Offering, covenantal meals). Even the inauguration of the Marriage Supper in the Lord's Table is centered in sacrifice. Why then is the final declaration of redemptive eating styled as a Wedding? The connection may be traced along several lines.

In biblical times, the notion of a wedding without a banquet was unthinkable. So intertwined were the ideas marriage and feast that one of the definitions of the Greek word for wedding (gamos) is actually "wedding feast." The connection may be seen in the meaning of the root (gam) which is "to join." To wed is to join together. But, in biblical times, sharing a table was also a means of intimate fellowship. Covenant meals indicated that two parties were now joined together in a new relational context. Marriage is a covenant (Mal 2:14). So feasting at a wedding was an integral component of the marriage event.

Comparing the meaning of marriage and the sacrificial meals also reveals a stunning connection. In the Passover meal, the lamb stood in place of the worshipper who then took the sacrifice into himself. The imagery is one of radical identification. The unblemished innocence of the lamb became the worshipper's righteousness even as the sins of the worshipper were born by the lamb. Marriage is about such radical identification as the husband and wife become one.

The Peace Offering meal indicated that the worshipper's fractured nature and broken relationship with God was restored. In marriage, those who are incomplete in themselves (cf. Gen 2:15-24) are joined to their counterpart to be made whole.

Nowhere is the sacrificial nature of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb more evident than Paul's description of marriage in Eph 5. The Apostle explains that the husband-wife relationship points to the glorious mystery of Christ and His church. Husbands are called upon to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Jesus sacrificially gave Himself for His bride. She was filthy so He cleansed her. Her garments were stained and wrinkled so He provided her with perfect bridal apparel. She deserved death so He died in her place. In this great wedding between Christ and His church, sacrifice is central.

As it turns out, the connection between sacrificial meals and the wedding feast are not so strange after all. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb is the climax of God's purpose in redemptive eating.

- Stan McGehee Jr

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