The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.' And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, Write, "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."' And he said to me, These are true words of God'" (Rev. 19:6-10). 

This reference in John's Revelation is limited in meaning if a person doesn't know about the culture concerning marriage in the time of Christ. I'd like to share with you about the background and importance of this coming glorious supper at Jesus' return.
In ancient Jewish culture, the marriage process began with the contract of marriage. This contract was negotiated between the families-it could be between a son's parents and the parents of a girl, or between a prospective husband and the parents of the bride-to-be. A cup of wine was then served in a goblet to be shared between the future bride and groom, if she accepted the suitor as her potential husband.
If she did not share the wine with him, the contract was cancelled. Up until the contract was made, she did not give her opinion of him. Once this contract was approved and the wine shared between them, they would move onto the next step: betrothal.
Some compare this betrothal to being engaged-this is a wrong concept, although it may convey some of the attributes of a betrothal. A betrothal had much more meaning than an "engagement" of today. Unlike today's engagements, which are verbal agreements between prospective spouses, the betrothal was a done deal and was legally binding. There was no changing of the mind at this point, except though divorce.
After the betrothal, the son would return to his parent's house and start preparing for the marriage, which meant building a place for them to live. Jesus compared the time between His ascension and His return to this practice: "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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).
Back at the bride-to-be's house, she would be given instructions from her mother as what would be expected of her as a wife. The common age of a new bride was in early teen years. During the betrothal period, the betrothed would not meet again until the marriage. This could be as long as 12 months, as this was the maximum amount of time allowed for the groom to prepare a place to live, although it could be a shorter amount of time.
The bride-to-be never knew ahead of time when the marriage would take place, but knew that the groom would come in the night to claim his bride. Each night she and some of her close friends would keep watch in anticipation of the groom's arrival to take the bride-to-be to the marriage ceremony. Jesus compared His second coming to this custom in the parable of the ten virgins: "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom" (Matt. 25:1).
When all was ready, the groom would take some friends and sneak up to the betrothed's house. He would shout once he arrived, and she would join him outside with her friends and walk back to groom's house, where the marriage ceremony was to be held. Along the way, they would be joined in this walk by anyone who wanted to be part of the procession: friends, neighbors, and even strangers.
Once in the house, the marriage ceremony took place, followed by loud shouting and seven days, or more, of feasting and more shouting. During this time, the new bride did not participate in the festivities and was "hidden".
How does the marriage supper of the Lamb relate to us today as Christians? Christ was able and willing to pay the price needed to make us (the Church) His bride-His atoning death by crucifixion. After paying the price required by the Father, He went to prepare a place for us. We also have the promise that if He has gone to prepare a place for us, like the potential groom in the marriage custom in the day of Christ, He will return for us.
How awesome! The whole process of the Jewish marriage and how Christ used it to illustrate the relationship between Him and His Church is very revealing to me and helps me better understand the Gospels and meaning of The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. What a blessed hope we have in the certain return of our Bridegroom-Jesus Christ! Let us heed His call to be prepared, waiting for Him with anticipation and keeping ourselves pure as a betrothed bride-to-be.
Ray P. Burriss is a retired missionary (having served in Puerto Rico) and is a marriage and family counselor ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.

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