What the Bible says about
Preparing for Marriage of the Lamb
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Two parties are needed to make a new heart. The "new man" is the New Covenant man. He is the man to whom God has given a new heart and in whom He has placed a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). Here, God takes the initiative; it is His doing.
Yet, notice the change in terminology in Ezekiel 18:31: The responsibility becomes ours! "Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves [make you, KJV] a new heart and a new spirit." In this passage, it is man, not God, who creates the new heart and the new spirit. Ezekiel 18 and Ezekiel 36 do not contradict; by Himself, God cannot create the new man in us. He needs our cooperation.
The Hebrew word translated "make" in Ezekiel 18:31 (KJV) is asah. God uses it some 2,625 times in the Old Testament. The translators render it a number of ways.
» To make in the sense of fabricate or build:"God made the firmament" (Genesis 1:7); "And you shall make holy garments for Aaron" (Exodus 28:2); "I did not make an end of them [the children of Israel] in the wilderness" (Ezekiel 20:17). Asah does not imply creation out of nothing - the Hebrew word bara, used only 60 times in the Old Testament, carries that meaning: "In the beginning God created" (Genesis 1:1). God is always the subject of bara, but as we can see from the examples, He is not always the subject of asah.
» To execute in the sense of "to do": "[Y]ou have established equity, You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob" (Psalms 99:4). "Remove violence and plundering, execute justice and righteousness" (Ezekiel 45:9).
» To keep: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8); "Because you . . . have not walked in My statutes, nor kept My judgments, . . . I . . . am against you" (Ezekiel 5:7,8).
» To prepare, especially a sacrifice: "And when you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering, or as a sacrifice to fulfill a vow . . ." (Numbers 15:8; see also verses 5, 6, 12). "For since the beginning of the world, men have not heard, . . . what He ha[s] prepared for him that wait[s] for [H]im" (Isaiah 64:4, KJV).
» To work: "He has filled them with skill to do [KJV work] all manner of work of the engraver" (Exodus 35:35); "Then Jonathan said, . . . '[I]t may be that the LORD will work for us" (I Samuel 14:6); "So we built the wall; . . . for the people had a mind to work" (Nehemiah 4:6).
» To commit: "But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die" (Ezekiel 18:21).
» To do: "And I gave them My statutes, and showed them My judgments, which, if a man does, he shall live by them" (Ezekiel 20:11). "I am the LORD your God: walk in My statutes, and keep My judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 20:19).
The conclusion is inescapable: asah, translated "make" in Ezekiel 18:31 (KJV), is synonymous with keep, do, work, and similar verbs. We "make [ourselves] a new heart" by what we do! Specifically, the action God requires of us is keeping His law, doing His commandments. This is a Christian's work.
By its meaning of "prepare," asah describes both sides of the covenant agreement. It describes what God does for us and what we must do for ourselves if we are to receive the promises of the New Covenant.
God, for His part, has prepared unimaginable glory for us, as Isaiah 64:4 makes plain in the KJV (see I Corinthians 2:9). We are to prepare ourselves just as an Israelite prepared an animal sacrifice (see Numbers 15). It is up to us, as "living sacrifices" (Romans 12:1), to prepare ourselves for the marriage of the Lamb by putting on clean clothes - the new man (compare Revelation 19:7-9 with Colossians 3:9-10).
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)
Like the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44), the pearl is an object of value. It can be part of a treasure, but there is a difference between "treasure" and "the pearl." Jesus says in verse 44: "like treasure." However, notice what He says in verse 46: "one pearl of great price." The difference is that "treasure" is a collective noun. Treasure is made up of many pieces of gold, silver, coins, articles of fine clothing, art, or gem stones. We can think of it like the treasure of a pirate in a chest buried somewhere in the Caribbean. That is what Jesus intends in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure—many valuable things in a collection. In the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price He considers one particular object of great value, the centerpiece of His treasure.
Emphasizing the oneness under God, Paul writes in Ephesians 4:4-6:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.
Note in particular "one body." Here Paul stresses the church's singularity, uniqueness, oneness. Christ has only one church. Paul mentions this in Romans 12:5: "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another." We have unity even though the church is made up of many members. Not only that, its members are interdependent of one another. They rely on one another to do certain things within the body to make the body function as it is designed.
Paul continues the thought in Colossians 3:15: "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful." This verse focuses us on being called into one body, and God put us in it to do or be something specifically. In I Corinthians 12:12-14, 27, this is repeated. We are many members but one body, and God put us each in the body to do what He wants us to do.
The "pearl" is the church as a whole, whereas the "treasure" in the preceding parable is the church in its individual members. In the first parable, Christ is assuring us that He has His eye on us for ourselves—that we are immeasurably valuable to Him as individuals. However, in this parable, He switches the focus slightly to assure us that all of us as a body, His Bride, are important. We are the centerpiece of His treasure—the Bride who will marry the Son.
Ephesians 5:25-27 brings out the "bride" aspect:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
This gives an idea of how much value Christ places on the church. It is pretty high praise, a lofty goal, to be considered this way by Him. Once He calls us, He sets out to perfect us, to make us absolutely holy and without blemish, so we can be a fitting spouse for Him.
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God." (Revelation 19:7-9)
What is the lesson? Christ joyfully gave His all for the church as His Bride, and He will prepare it as His adornment, just as a king adorns his clothing and crown with pearls. This should give us encouragement in our battle against Satan. We have so much going for us, not only as individual sons and daughters of God, but because we have been called right now as part of His Bride. If we keep up the good work, if we allow God to work in us and remove all our blemishes, what a glorious future we have!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure
The fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Consider that the marriage analogy carries right through from the Old Covenant into the New. Under the New Covenant, the church is seen as a bride preparing for marriage.
There is a major difference, however, between the Old and New Covenant marriage analogies. In the Old Covenant, when Israel agreed to God's proposal, and Moses performed the ritual described in Exodus 24, they were married. When we enter into the New Covenant, we are not married yet. We are like a bride preparing for marriage, even though we have already agreed to the New Covenant. God has made this change to resolve the weakness of the first covenant, which will be eradicated before the actual ceremony and union take place.
Revelation 19 is the announcement that the bride is now ready and the marriage can take place. There are four things that a marriage relationship must have to really be successful:
1) A marriage must have love. A loveless marriage is a contradiction in terms.
2) A marriage must have intimate communion—so intimate that the bride and groom become one flesh. The two become one.
3) A marriage should have joy. This will be a natural result if love exists in the marriage. The joy of loving and being loved is like nothing else.
4) A marriage must have fidelity, loyalty, and faithfulness. No marriage can last without it.
The weakness of the first covenant will be resolved—eradicated—before the actual ceremony and union take place. This time, Christ will be married to a wife who has already proved that she loves Him, that she is capable of intimate communication, that she is happy with Him as her Husband, and that she is faithful in every aspect of her life.
Notice how attention is drawn to her preparations, as well as her righteous acts. Could her righteous acts have anything to do with the preparation? Absolutely. Could it have anything to do with her being qualified? Absolutely. Works—her righteous acts—are represented here.
We should not be misled into thinking that her deeds, her righteous acts, have earned her salvation. All through the Bible, it maintains a delicate balance between grace (what is given) and obedience (the proper response). Here, that balance is shown by the wife's garments being granted to her. She has worked, but the gift is still given.
It takes work to make a marriage successful. It takes work to make our relationship with God successful. If we do the right kind of works, there is no doubt that the relationship will be successful, and God will be well pleased with us. And we will enter His Kingdom.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works
Most believe that this person in question, "His wife," is the church, the Bride of Christ. Notice, however, what the verse says: "[She] has made herself ready." God does not lead us in wrong directions, so whhat this description suggests is true. The woman - the Bride, the church - has had to do things. She had to perform certain actions to get herself into position to be ready to marry Christ. It was not merely a matter of repenting, getting baptized, and receiving God's Spirit. She had to do something to be prepared to be in the Kingdom and marry her Savior.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part One)
At this wonderful ceremony, the Bride will be given a very special privilege—that of being able to wear fine, clean, white linen. This raiment is so much more beautiful, important, and meaningful than even the loveliest of today's physical wedding gowns.
A study of fine, clean, white linen in the Bible reveals that this fabric (or more correctly, a spiritual version of it) is the material worn by angels. It was also worn by royalty and by God's priests, and it was also used extensively in the construction of the Tabernacle. At the marriage of the Lamb, the children of God who make up His Bride will become worthy to wear this fine, clean, white linen because, as well as becoming like angels (as Jesus describes their state in Matthew 22:30), they will become kings, priests, and pillars in God's Temple. Here in Revelation 19:8, fine linen is described as symbolic of "the righteous acts of the saints."
The Marriage of the Lamb
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