Weddings are joy-filled and expectant events. We look forward to the couple’s new life and the starting of a new family. In biblical times, the bridegroom was ending his adolescence and taking on the responsibility of starting a family line. Continuing the family name was of utmost importance. Because of this, the bridegroom portrayed as a victor (Ps 19:5). He had won the bride through the payment of a bride-price and had earned a position of importance in the community.
THE ULTIMATE BRIDEGROOM
Song of Solomon (often called Song of Songs) offers a beautiful picture of wedded bliss. The bride and bridegroom share a mutual love for one another. Their love is fresh and untainted by unfaithfulness or the trials of life. Song of Solomon is a portrait of a real marriage, but it is also an image for the relationship between God and his people. God is the bridegroom, and Israel is the beautiful bride.
Of course, sin and rebellion ruin that ideal marriage. The book of Hosea describes a marriage that is metaphor for the relationship between God and Israel as it turned out to be. God is represented by Gomer, the harlot and priestess in a pagan cult. The bride has been unfaithful to the bridegroom in the most heinous ways, yet the bridegroom pursues her and woos her back, time and again. God is the pursuing bridegroom of his way-ward people.
The image of God’s people as a bride for Christ is fleshed out in the New Testament with Paul’s instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33. After commanding the wife to submit to her husband’s leadership and the husband to love sacrificially, Paul says, “This is a great mystery. (I’m talking about Christ’s relationship to the church)” (v 32). Marriage should reflect the relationship between Christ and the church today, just as it was intended to reflect the relationship between God and his people in Old Testament. The loving, sacrificial bridegroom who takes the appropriate leadership in the marriage relationship reflects God’s care for the church.
One of the most memorable uses of the imagery of a wedding is in Jesus’s parable about the ten foolish virgins (Matt 25). These virgins were to be part of the weeding night festivities, proceeding with lamps to the bride and groom’s bedchamber. But they failed to prepare properly and so were excluded from the wedding feast. Jesus is reminding us that the is the diligent bridegroom making preparations for us (Matt 9:15; John 3:29); and while we wait, we must remain alert and ready for his return (John 14:1-3).
The imagery of Christ as our bridegroom reaches a climax in Revelation. The whoring wife of Hosea has been redeemed and is now the resplendent, pure bride of Christ. “Let us rejoice, be happy, and give him glory because it’s time for the marriage of the lamb. His bride has made herself ready” (19:7). The final four chapters of Revelation flesh this out as invitations are sent out of the marriage supper, the triumphant wedding host prepares the path and conquers his enemies, the new home is prepared and lit, the guest arrive and those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are admitted, and the guest are refreshed with the water of life and twelve kinds of fruit. The final invitation is offered in 22:17; “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let those who hear this say,’ ‘Come!’ Let those who are thirsty come! Let those who want the water of life take it as a gift.” The Bible’s final picture of Christ is a bridegroom. What image could be more fitting and appealing for his final invitations to us than that of a bridegroom He is the loving victor holding out the glorious invitation to cherish and care for us eternally.