In the last two posts (here and here), we wrapped up our study of Matthew 24, covering verses 35-51. This followed a 4-part parallel study of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, and Luke 21:5-32 (seen here, here, here, and here).
As Matthew 24 transitions into Matthew 25, we observe something that reflects a pattern seen elsewhere in the New Testament. That is, Matthew 24-25 is one of three New Testament passages where the destructive judgment upon Jerusalem gives way to something far more redemptive and glorious, the wedding of Christ to His bride.
As discussed in the six posts devoted to the Olivet Discourse (cited above), Jesus has just foretold the destruction of the temple, and His coming in judgment and in His kingdom, all of which was fulfilled within His own generation. Consider what He says next: “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1). He then goes on to describe how those who were equipped with plenty of oil were able to go into the marriage feast with the bridegroom (Matt. 25:1-13), a most blessed opportunity. This is already the second time we’ve seen this pattern in the book of Matthew.
Recall Matthew 22 and the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt. 22:1-14). In this parable, a king put on a wedding feast for his son, and the king’s servants were sent out to tell “those who were invited” (verse 2) that everything had been prepared. This represented God preparing a feast for His Son, Jesus, and the gospel first being spread among the Jewish people (e.g. Matthew 10:5-7, Matthew 15:24, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, Acts 3:26, Acts 13:46, Romans 1:16).
Many who were invited repeatedly ignored the invitation, and others even mistreated and killed the king’s servants who had invited them (verse 6). As a result:
“The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find’” (verses 7-9).
This, of course, was a foretelling of what would happen, and what did happen, to Jerusalem in 70 AD when it was burned by God’s instrument of judgment, the Romans.
The invitation then goes out to others (Gentiles as well as Jews; vss. 9-10), which I believe can be seen, for example, in the bold proclamation made by Paul and Barnabas in the city of Antioch:
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:44-47).
Only those with proper wedding garments were allowed to remain at the wedding feast (vss. 10-14). In Jesus’ analogy before His first century audience, the speechless man (verse 12) perhaps represents the Jew who believed that his ethnic descent from Abraham earned him an automatic place in the kingdom of God. The proper wedding garment, however, meant being clothed in the righteousness of Christ (see Revelation 19:8). Those who lacked these garments remained in outer darkness and were not part of the chosen people of God (vss. 13-14; see also Matthew 8:11-12; Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Matt. 21:43-45).
Outside of Matthew, this pattern of judgment before bridal bliss is also repeated. Babylon the Great is shown in Revelation 16-18 to be an adulterous city that was responsible for the shedding of the blood of prophets, apostles, and saints (see especially Rev. 16:4-6, 17:6, 18:20, and 18:24). This detail alone answers so clearly to what Jesus said in Matthew 23:29-38 that there is no further need to speculate on the identity of Babylon the Great. In Matthew 23, He not only tells who would be held responsible for the martyrdom of His people, but also when they would be held responsible:
“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees… I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth… Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation… “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together… See, your house is left to you desolate.”
To make Babylon’s identity even more clear, though, John’s readers are told in Revelation 11 exactly what city he speaks of later in the book. In Rev. 11:8 we first come across the expression, “the great city,” which is later used seven more times in chapters 16-18 (Rev. 16:19, 17:18; 18:9, 16, 17, 19, 21) in reference to Babylon the Great. Speaking of God’s “two witnesses” (Rev. 11:3), John was told that their dead bodies would lie “in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” In what city was Jesus crucified? Of course, we know that it was Jerusalem.
So, with these things established, John’s readers are told four times that “the great city,” identified as Jerusalem, was to be burned with fire (Rev. 17:16, 18:8-9, 18:17, and 19:3). This literally happened in 70 AD, as Josephus and other eyewitnesses affirm. As the book of Matthew has already demonstrated, the story doesn’t end there. A great multitude in heaven cries out:
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just; for He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants… Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” (Rev. 19:1-3).
The great multitude then goes on to say:
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 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” (Rev. 19:6-7).
Mirroring the words of Jesus in Matthew 22 and 25, an angel proclaims, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).
This perhaps comes into greater focus when we recall that the apostle Paul said things like this to his first century readers:
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” (Romans 7:4)
“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (II Corinthians 11:2)
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish… This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:25-32)
So, in summary, we see that a wedding immediately follows the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 22:7-8, Matthew 24-25, and Revelation 19:1-10. This wedding feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb, is not awaiting fulfillment. It commenced in the first century. Let us rejoice, for God’s people are still called to partake of this feast even now!
Thoughts Are Welcome
What are your thoughts on what Scripture says concerning the marriage of Christ to the Church?
For years, I was taught that the Church has not yet entered into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and that we remain betrothed (i.e. engaged) to Christ (see II Cor. 11:2, quoted above). This will be the case, I was taught, until He returns, at which time the marriage will take place. If this were true, what would be the significance/implications of a betrothal period lasting for 2000 years or more?
I now believe that Scripture shows that this betrothal period lasted for about one generation, and that the marriage and feast began at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction and the dissolution of the Old Covenant system in the first century. Since I believe this is true, I’m asking myself what is the significance of the betrothal period lasting for just that one generation?
I’m thinking aloud, but I’m guessing that Romans 7:4 (quoted above) holds a clue to this. Paul told his readers that they became dead to the law for a purpose. It was so that they could be married to Jesus who had been raised from the dead. Why was there a connection between the Church turning its back on the law, and looking forward to being married to Christ?
In our study of Matthew 24:35, we looked into Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:17-18 that nothing would pass from the Law until heaven and earth disappeared. We saw that, viewing Scripture as a whole, “heaven and earth” is used as covenant language here. The Old Covenant was made obsolete at the cross, but a few decades later when Hebrews was written it was still “becoming obsolete and growing old” and “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). This was accomplished when temple-based, Old Covenant Judaism met its demise in 70 AD. On the heels of the manifest passing of the Law, then (in fulfillment of Matthew 5:17-18), the Church was married to Christ. This took place as predicted in Matthew 22:7-8, Matthew 24-25, and Revelation 19:1-10; and as alluded to in Romans 7:4, II Corinthians 11:2, and Ephesians 5:25-32.
These are my thoughts. What are yours?