The Final Romance
The slogans “love is love”, “same love” or “love wins” used by the Yes side in the same-sex marriage (SSM) debate seem naturally irresistible. Surely “gay marriage (should be seen) as an expression not of desire but of love.” (Jamie Oliver). Surely any two people who love one another should be able to marry. This “love-centred” form of persuasion is powerfully in tune with the rhythm and rights of our times; but this is not my interest (1 Cor 5:9-13). What deeply disappoints me is the spiritually impoverished level of discourse within the Church that reveals how little she enjoys intimacy with Christ her Groom (John 3:29). Multiple statements by Christians opposing SSM lean heavily on creation based arguments from Genesis and the natural order of things. These arguments are valid, but they are not distinctly Christian and as such are inadequate to stem the surging tide of sexually immorality amongst us. New creation arguments concerning heterosexual marriage depend upon the people of God rediscovering their end-time identity (Gal 6:15); in this respect the book of Revelation is the inspirational document for our times. Revelation speaks most profoundly of marriage as a new covenant mystery and is the exposé of the ultimate love story, Christ and the Church, which makes all other love stories possible.
The Last is First
The plan of God in scripture is not to be read in terms of linear time. Since Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” we should view the way God begins things through how he ends things (Rev 13:8; cf. 1 Pet1:20). Paul’s prophetic exposition of Genesis, ““Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:31-32), teaches that the marriage of Adam and Eve was modelled on that between Christ and the Church. The foundational wife/ counterpart is not Eve, but the Church, for the foundational husband is not Adam but Christ (1 Cor 15:45). The essential marriage is not those which end in death, but the eternal marriage of heaven. The union of a man and a woman in marriage is so profound because it draws its reality from the perfect Last Marriage which from eternity was God’s ultimate intention (cf. Eph 1:4). All human marriages, whether folk are aware of it or not, are united in the will of God to the great “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:6-10). From the beginning “God has joined together” male and female in a unique covenant bond that is tied to his End goal of the wedding of his Son (Matt 19:4-6). Everyday marriages exist through and for this Last Marriage (Col 1:16).
We are familiar with the fact that Christ is working on the church “to present her to himself” spotless and beautiful (Eph 5:25-27). But reading Revelation as a romance discloses that Christ the Lamb has perfectly prepared himself for his wedding through slaughter and resurrection (5:6). His blood and righteousness poured out for us is the price he paid to purchase his Bride (1 Sam 18:35; Acts 20:28). Swept off her feet by “the revelation of Jesus Christ” as her all worthy glorious sacrificial Husband (Rev 1:1; 5:9-12) the Bride willingly “makes herself ready” for her wedding Day (19:7). She “washes her robes and makes them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). The glowing wedding apparel of the “righteous deeds of the saints” is their identification with the sacrificial way of the Lamb by a readiness to lay down life as a testimony for his glory (12:11; 19:8). The sacrificial love of the saints for their Groom is the way in which the perverted eroticism of the Harlot is exposed (17:1-6; 18:24; 19:2). The Great Wedding is the prophetic climax of salvation history and the reason why God created the world (21:9ff.). At last the Lamb of God has a counterpart worthy to be his companion forever to the glory of God (cf. Gen 2:18). God’s plan for his Son to enjoy the utmost intimacy with his Bride is however intensely contested.
Losing a Love
“I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you pas a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Cor 11:2-3). Revelation pictures a Church in danger of being seduced away from its love for Jesus to conform to the dominant culture of the day. The Ephesians, though orthodox, have “abandoned the love you had at first” (2:4-5), the Christians at Sardis didn’t even know they’d fallen away (3:1-3) and the Laodiceans were so lukewarm they could not hear their Lover knocking on the door (3:15-16, 20; cf. S of Sol 5:2). Satan not only bullies, but through the powers of the Harlot he seeks to seduce the people of God through “spiritual” means (ch.17). This is the case with all the “love talk” in the SSM debate. In his ardour for his Bride the Lamb of God however demands exclusive passion for himself; the Church must be virginal (2:4-5; 3:15-16; 14:1-5). When she is not chaste severe divine judgement is inevitable (1 Pet 4:17). Our Father is never passive.
A Jealous Father/in-law
The Father is a jealous God who punishes idolatry as an expression of spiritual adultery (Ex 20:3-5; Hos 4:12). More than this, Revelation teaches he is the jealous Father of both Groom and Bride (1:6; 2:8, 18; 3:5; 21:7) and the one who gives the Bride away (3:12; 21:2, 10). He issues the invitations to the Wedding (19:9) and will dwell with married couple after their wedding as their paternal protector forever (21:3-4; 22:3-5). In this light the Australian Church must open its eyes to the stark realities surrounding it. As God took an idolatrous people into Babylonian exile to strip them of their spiritual promiscuity (Ezek 6:8-10), so the Father, jealous for his Son to be worthily loved, has handed the Church over to the immediate prospect of living in a society that believes the myth that all loves are equal.
The Church is the special and beautiful Woman in the sight of God chosen for his Son; she alone is one in flesh and spirit with her Lord (1 Cor 6:17; Eph 5:32-33 cf. Mal 2:15). But she can only see the true beauty of her holiness when she looks at herself through the eyes of the cross (Ps 45:10ff; 96:9).seeing herself in Christ she is swept off her feet by the love of the Lamb and echoes his heart’s cry, testifying, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”” (Rev 22:17). She is a Bride motivated to holy discipleship to please her Groom hates all the harlotries of this world (Rev 18:4). Moment by moment she draws her monogamous identity from her Husband’s all loving presence. The SSM advocates are correct to say it is all about love, but not knowing the Lamb of God they cannot know what ultimate love means. Who will show them, who will display the realities of Christ’s sacrificial love to a lost world immersed in ever accelerating sexual perversions? What will you suffer the loss of for your heavenly Lover so that a generation sliding into the abyss of false loves might be saved by the sacrifice of the Lamb (Rev 7:13-14)? Praise the wisdom of God for how he has ordained the SSM crisis in order to force such final choices upon us.