As I looked at the time it was 4.10 a.m., and I was reminded of a favourite scripture, “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10). I started to pray about this and asked the Lord, “What are you going to fill all things with?” Surprisingly, I sensed, “I want to fill all things with marriage.” A couple of scriptures came to mind that seemed to confirm this awareness, “22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22-23). If the church is the medium through which Jesus will fill everything, and the church is his bride, then in the End marriage must fill all things.
By this stage my wife Donna was awake, so I asked her a trick question, “When do you feel most married?” When she hesitated I gave her the “right” answer, “Marriage is a state that you take everywhere with you.” God’s final purpose in creation is to fill the universe with the presence of marital love. This paper seeks to draw out some of the implications of this insight, especially for spiritual warfare.
Created for Marital Delight
The creation of humanity was an occasion of ecstatic divine joy. “then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” (Prov 8:30-31).Theologically, creation is the manifestation of the mutual delight that the three Persons of the Trinity have in each other. The Son and Spirit rejoice that all things are “from” the Father (1 Cor 8:6; Rev 4:11; 10:6), the Father and Spirit delight that all is made “through” the Son (John 1:3; Heb 1:2) and Father and Son are enraptured by the creative work by the Spirit (Gen 1:2; Ps 104:30).
Eden means “delight”, and the height of human delight in God’s work pours forth from the lips of Adam, ““This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.””, to which the commentator adds, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen 2:23-25).
The pure delight the first married couple experienced in each other’s presence was a participation in the sheer joy that the three Persons of the Trinity have in their eternal fellowship. The New Testament interprets all marriage as essentially a spiritual relationship imaging God’s love for his people. ““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). This interpretation of marriage is an application of the principle, “What is first in intention is last in execution.” When God instituted the first marriage he had in mind the eternal marital bliss between Jesus and the church that would endure forever.
The command to “fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion” (Gen 1:28) involved enfolding all creation in the power of the intimate presence of a fully matured marriage. The union of the spirits of men and women would procreate children and fill all things with an eternal covenantal love that flowed from God. This is the marvellous glory that was lost through sin.
When God spoke his Word to Adam he imparted a true knowledge of himself in the most intimate way. The Creator enacted a covenant with man whose depths can only be expressed in marital language, and which requires complete fidelity. The violation of this covenant is essentially a marriage betrayal.
When Satan approached Eve, “her husband …was with her” (Gen 3:6), and they acted together as one flesh. Whereas Eve was genuinely fooled by the serpent, Adam blatantly disobeyed the commandment of God (Gen 3:17) and wilfully terminated his covenant partnership with the Almighty. This brought about a divorce whose end result is the pronouncement the penalty of death (Rom 3:23). Physical death witnesses to man’s guilty conscience that an intimate relationship with God has been dissolved, and that that he now lacks an eternal covenant partner. Whatever devices human beings invent to distract them from this basic knowledge, they are unable to suppress the tragedy that they are “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). God however had another plan, to re-marry humanity through a chosen people.
A Second Marriage
The covenant between God and Israel is explicitly one of marriage, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer” (Isa 54:5). Nevertheless, the vocabulary of a happy marriage is almost totally absent in the Old Testament period. While Yahweh longs to be called, “my Husband”, in the present time he is called “my Baal” (Hos 2:16). Israel is fundamentally a harlot who has “married the daughter of a foreign god.” (Mal 2:10-11). Consequently, God’s unfaithful wife must be issued with a certificate of divorce (Is 50:1; Jer 3:8-9) and sent into exile.
Nevertheless, the prophets look forward to a time of unmitigated marital harmony. This will not come through some mystical infatuation, but through a process of re-courting and purification in the wilderness, “I will hedge up her way with thorns…..I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season…I will uncover her lewdness …I will put an end to all her mirth… I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals…“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her…And I will make for them a covenant on that day …And I will betroth you to me forever… in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. 23 … And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”” (Hos 2:9ff.).
This beautiful picture reaches its climax in Isaiah’s image of a marriage filling the whole land, “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isa 62:4-5). This is so exciting, but what usually escapes our attention is the cost involved in receiving such deep revelation.
Jeremiah is forbidden to marry (Jer 16:2), Hosea was commanded to wed “a wife of whoredom” (Hos 1:2), and most tragically, God “took away”, i.e. killed, Ezekiel’s wife, “the delight” of his eyes (Ezek 24:16, 18). Only such anguish could bring a living participation in the wounded heart of God, the abandoned Husband of Israel married to a perpetual adulteress. Without such an experience of personal forsakenness, the people of God, ancient and modern, can never understand the depths of the divine love revealed in Jesus and so can never be freed from spiritual permissiveness.
Christians are comfortable with the thought that Jesus came to a legalistic generation, but few compute that he visited an “adulterous generation” (Matt 12:38; 16:4, Mark 8:38). Their rejection of the living Word for the written law was itself an act of marital violation that demanded from God their (Israel’s) holy Husband either the penalty of death (Lev 20:10) or atonement through blood sacrifice. Jesus would provide the sacrifice.
In speaking of himself Christ said, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away” (Matt 9:15 cf. John 3:29). Only in understanding that as God Jesus the Husband of the covenant people, and as an Israelite is a part of God’s Bride, can we sense the pain of the cross.
“Jesus cried with a loud voice… “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34). The anguish of forsakenness is the anguish of total divorce between God, Israel and all humanity. It is the end of covenant, it is the experience of an abandoned spouse, and it involves God in Christ being plunged into that state of eternal divorce we call hell. This is the utter absence of all affection, joy and delight, it is the complete negation of the intimacy for which men and women were created. Yet, as both God’s and our pain carried in Jesus for us (Isa 53:4-5) it brings complete reconciliation and the creation of an inviolable covenant bond (Luke 22:20; Heb 13:20). This new and eternal marriage is the inner meaning of salvation.
Marriage is Everything to Everyone
The scriptures convey a vision of the final state in which God is “everything to everyone” (1 Cor 15:24 C.E.V.). This is not some abstract state, but the perfect marriage. In the End, the “one husband” and the “pure virgin” (2 Cor 11:2) shall enjoy eternal union. The consummation of God’s age old plan evokes ecstatic worship in heaven, “6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.7 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; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev 19:1-10cf. Ps 42:2, 13-15).
The apostle Paul understood his apostleship in terms of being an introduction service for marriage with Christ, to the Corinthians he says, “I betrothed you to one husband” (2 Cor 11:2). More strikingly, he sees all ministry as marriage preparation, “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers… equip the saints for the work of ministry…until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph 4:11-13). The verb “come” means “come to meet”, and evokes the image of a bridegroom coming out to meet her groom with anticipation and delight. We minister to bring others to Jesus as part of a holy Bride fit for his intimate love.
More than this, the gospel itself is a proposal of marriage from Christ! Hosea’s prophecy of the reconciliation between adulterous Israel and the LORD (Hos 2:23), is applied by Paul to the ingathering of the Gentiles through the preaching of the good news, ““Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”” (Rom 9:25-26). Since these truths about the marriage of God and his people are central to the purpose of creation they are mightily opposed by evil powers.
The Power of the Prostitute
Satan is the deceiver of the world and the church, but his instrument in seduction is Babylon, “the great prostitute”. In a vision John sees, “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
The city we inhabit is essentially harlotish, for the principle by which it lives is personal gain; it is ruled by contract and knows nothing of covenant. Everywhere there are demonic powers stirring up unbridled lust for consumption of every kind (1 Tim 4:1, Rev 16:13-14). This is what we should expect in the world, but tragically this power is also operative in the church (2 Thess 2:4).
Ungodly passion, the very opposite of the “one spirit” relationship of union with Christ (1 Cor 6:17 cf. 2 Pet 1:4), reveals itself not simply in sexual immorality, greed and lust for power, but also much for subtly. The contemporary Western church’s obsession with ministry, leadership and church growth is an insecure bride trying by good works to convince her Bridegroom that she is worthy. Lacking the profound intimacy and holiness of pure matrimony, the church reverts to conservative legalism or liberal licence.
Whilst Western Christians are addicted to creature comforts, the early church longed for the destruction of the Prostitute, “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgements 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.”3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”” (Rev 19:1-3). Where are those who authoritatively proclaim these things? The answer is simple, the deep mysteries of marriage (Eph 5:32), human and divine, reveal themselves only through suffering love.
A Marriage Built Through Pain
Just as Jesus brought about oneness in spirit with us through trial, temptation and death to self- will, so we must “suffer the loss of all things” (Phil 3:8) in order to gain Christ. Satan will never be overcome by the impressive marketing strategies of megachurches, nor by the social ideology of liberalism or much “emergent Christianity”, he can ONLY be defeated by a love that offers itself in death, “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev 12:11).
Understood from the angle of intimacy, spiritual warfare is a vastly different matter than martial strength. By the Spirit and through prayer, proclamation and compassionate deeds, the church brings the presence of Christ in marital intimacy into the deep regions of humanity beyond the reach of demon powers. In this way the marriage state becomes an innermost presence through which all things are ultimately transformed (Matt 19:28; Acts 3:21).
No amount of power, money or intellectual knowledge can “solve” the problems plaguing Christianity and culture today; reality is essentially relational, and what we need is genuine intimacy with Christ. The breakdown of marriage in society and church, the rampant sexual immorality abroad and the absence of persistent holiness in the church all come down to a lack of the foundational revelation of the depths of intimacy with Christ our Husband.
The moral sea change sweeping Western culture is far more serious than rising oceans caused by global warming; it signals a demonic onslaught on the way to Armageddon. The upholding of committed homosexual relationships and the push for “same –sex marriage” is not merely a moral travesty, but an attack on the foundation of the meaning for existence – the eternal marriage of the Bridegroom and his Bride.
As the suffering of the prophets exposed to Israel that the intimacy she enjoyed with idols was false, worthless and evoked divine judgment, so the church today must suffer if Western civilisation is to be saved. Christianity without discipleship is as abominable to God as sex without commitment.
Messiah is coming back for a church “in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing… holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27). This is what he died for, this is what we must die for!
 In context this refers to wisdom, in the New Testament this is revealed as Christ (1 Cor 1:24; Col 2:3).
 This is the foundational meaning of creation in the image and glory of God (Gen 1:26-28; Isa 43:6-7; 1 Cor 11:7).
 ““the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth…she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit,”” (Mal 2:14-15).
 This is clearest in Hosea, “like Adam they (Israel) transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me” (Hos 6:7). The text goes on to speak of the nation’s “whoredom”.
 “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived” (1 Tim 2:14).
 Yahweh says of Israel, “she is not my wife, and I am not her husband” (Hos 2:2).
 “I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 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 11:3).
 The essential difference is that only covenant is unconditional.