Hallelujah: The Coming Lord Prepares His Bride! (All of Life for God) (2024)

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Episode Summary:

This week on All of Life for God, we’re celebrating the release of Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 4: Ecclesiology and Last Things by Dr. Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley. Tune in for the next four weeks to hear a series of sermons on the church and eschatology from Dr. Beeke.

Episode Transcript:

Let us turn now to the Book of Revelation again, chapter 19. We'll read the first 10 verses, which will also serve as our text this morning. Revelation 19, one through 10. "And after these things, I heard a great voice of much people in heaven saying, 'Hallelujah.' Salvation and glory and honor and power unto the Lord, our God. For true and righteous are his judgments, for he hath judged the great which did corrupt the earth with her fornication and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, 'Hallelujah.' And her smoke rose up forever and ever. And the four and 20 elders and the four beasts fell down and worshiped God that sat on the throne saying, 'Amen, hallelujah.' And a voice came out of the throne saying, 'Praise our God, all ye servants and ye that fear him, both small and great.'.

And as I heard as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thundering saying, 'Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his wife hath made herself ready. Unto her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, 'Right, blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he saith unto me, 'These are the true sayings of God,' and I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, 'See thou do it not. I am thy fellow servant and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God for the testimony of Jesus is a spirit of prophecy.'"

Thus far the reading of sacred scripture. Our text words this morning you can find in Revelation 19 verses one through 10 and we'll read again only verses six and seven at this time. "And I heard as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the voice of many waters and the voice of mighty thundering saying, 'Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him for the marriage of the Lamb is come and his wife hath made herself ready."

Our theme this morning is hallelujah. The coming Lord prepares his bride. We'll say three thoughts. First, hallelujah, the Lord saves through judgment. Second, hallelujah, the Lord reigns over his prepared bride. And third, hallelujah, the Lord calls to the marriage supper. Hallelujah, the coming Lord prepares his bride, he saves through judgment, he reigns over his prepared bride, he calls to the marriage supper. Perhaps one of the most famous pieces of religious music today is Handel's Messiah and one of the most recognized parts is the Hallelujah Chorus. Handel's inspiration for that chorus came from our text this morning. It's the only place in the entire New Testament where the word hallelujah or more commonly spelled today, hallelujah is used. The word is used many times in the Old Testament Psalms, as you know, and it means simply praise the Lord. But here, this is the only place in the New Testament it's used. It's used four times. It's a chorus of hallelujahs. Now hallelujah is not just a catchphrase. Not just something to be repeated, endlessly chanted about, but it's a heartfelt expression of worship. It has content to it. Praise the Lord.

And the amazing thing about this hallelujah here in Revelation 19 is that this praise to the Lord is generated on the one hand by a funeral and on the other hand by a wedding. Revelation 19 is a very colorful chapter both in its funeral and in its wedding. If you could imagine a scene with me a moment, on the horizon you can almost see, on the horizon of this chapter the smoke of Babylon. Not the smoke of industry and life, but the smoke of destruction and ruin. Babylon is destroyed. This is the funeral Babylon as we saw last time. Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen. The great city of the world is no more and all that remains is the smoke going up forever and ever. Our text says, and this great city in the background smoldering away is fading away even as the wedding. The wedding supper of the Lamb comes on the foreground and there's festivity and hallelujahs and rejoicing and singing not only over the funeral, but also over the wedding. It's the wedding of the Lamb.

So this is what the Hallelujah Chorus is all about. It's about a funeral and it's about a wedding. The Hallelujah Chorus is a confirmation of Matthew Henry's well-known and famous statement, "The church will survive the world and be in bliss when the world is in ruins." Now, what a comfort that is to the church of God today and how we need to remind ourselves today that this world is so intimidating, so impressive that it can even con believers into believing to some degree at least that it's here forever. But Revelation 19 brings us to reality. The solemn reality that history is progressing not to some great world empire, but to the altar, to the aisle, to the wedding of the Lamb. The whole of history designed to bring the people of God to the eternal Lord's Supper, the eternal wedding of the Lamb. And so all of history is moving to these two dramatic points. To the destruction of this Babylonian world and to the wedding of the people of God with the Lamb.

So the great question we have to ask in this life, the great question we have to ask in preparation for the Lord's Supper is simply this: Am I still a citizen of Babylon or am I engaged betrothed to the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I heading for the funeral of this world or am I headed to an eternity of bliss in union with Christ? Am I enslaved by this world? Does this world dominate my thinking or does the Lord Jesus Christ have my heart and is my heart engaged to him? Well, verses one through five are about the funeral, verses six through 10 about the wedding.

Verses one through five speak briefly about the joy of the unfallen angels and the redeemed over the destruction of Babylon. The message of the angels and the redeemed is hallelujah, the Lord reigns through judgment. And really there's three things that move the church to sing hallelujah over Babylon's destruction. The first is in verse one, God redeems his people from their enemies, hallelujah. After these things, I heard a great voice of much people in heaven saying, hallelujah. Salvation, glory, honor, power, and to the Lord our God. Then secondly, the church sings with joy because God dispenses truth and righteousness for his own glory. Hallelujah, verse two, for true and righteous are his judgments. For yet judge the great whor* which did corrupt the Earth. That's Babylon, that's this world with her fornication and avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And number three, the redeemed people of God rejoice because God permanently destroys Babylon and crushes man's rebellion. Hallelujah. Verse three, and again they said Hallelujah and her smoke rose up forever and ever.

There's joy in heaven because there's only smoke that is left that wins the praise of those around the throne. The four and 20 beasts versus four and five fall down and worship God when they see the destruction of Babylon. See that this world has lost the battle that King Jesus has won and they say amen, hallelujah. And the voice comes out of the throne saying praise our God. All ye is servants and ye that fear him, both small and great. Believers will rejoice at the funeral of Babylon in the day of judgment. They will rejoice that God and they and the church will be vindicated and that God's glory will be had even in justice and judgment. They will rejoice when all of Babylon's mixing of religion and sexual permissiveness and idolatry and injustice is burned in the fire of God's wrath.

Here in this life, Babylon has suffered much. Or rather, believers have suffered much because of the Babylon inside of them and because of the tempting Babylon outside of them. And they've grappled, and maybe you're grappling even now, with injustice in the world, with the righteous being punished, the wicked rewarded. You've grappled often with being tempted by evil and enticed by Babylon, her idolatry, her immorality, but God graciously preserves you and keeps you. But one day the struggles will be over. No more will the cry be, "Oh, wretched man that I am." But the cry will be "Hallelujah. Babylon is destroyed out there and Babylon is destroyed in here. Hallelujah."

So the message of verses one through five, dear friends, is this: Every time you are tempted by idolatry, by covetousness, by immorality, by evil, remember the end. The end of the harlot Babylon. It is all smoke. Evil, injustice, immorality, idolatry will only result in regret. Our poor world, Thursday couldn't even spend one day in Thanksgiving. We're so materialistic, we're so covetous that stores now have to open on Thanksgiving evening. We can't set aside one day to thank the Lord for what he has given us and we're going out already and getting more things and more possessions. Oh God, save us from the spirit of Babylon. Let these images of God's justice, let the smoke of Revelation 19 as it arises, be sealed to our hearts so that when sin tempts us, we will see between us and the sin the smoke of Babylon arising in judgment. I pray you congregation don't live for the funeral of this world. Live for the wedding of the Lamb.

And so that leads us to our second thought. The Lord reigns over his prepared bride. This is a happy part of Revelation. A wonderful text, glorious for preparation for the Lord's supper. Verse seven says, "Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come." And then John goes on in just a few verses. He talks about the wedding, he talks about the bridegroom, the bride, and the guests. We want to look at all of those this morning briefly.

The first thing we need to understand, of course, like all the rest of Revelation here, we're dealing with symbolism. Lambs don't get married, but there's symbolism here. And this is not the symbolism of the kind of wedding that we picture. Of course not. Our weddings are very different than Jewish weddings. John is of course picturing a Jewish wedding, the kind of wedding of his own day, not a Western wedding. The arrangements are different, the protocol is different, the festivities, the ceremony are different. We need to understand the symbolism here in the context of a Jewish wedding. And the first thing we need to understand is that betrothal in the Jewish culture was similar to our engagement, but it was something more. When you were betrothed, you came before the local leader of the synagogue and you said your vows. It was almost like you were married, but yet you weren't married. You weren't allowed to consummate the marriage.

And that's the way you were to understand, too, things like, well, Mary's relationship with Joseph. In Matthew 1, you remember that the angel comes and says, "Joseph thou son of David, fear not to take to the Mary thy wife." You say, "But Mary's not his wife, she's only betrothed to him." Well, but it's almost as if she were his wife because that's how firm this betrothal was. You see in the ancient Jewish custom, it was much stronger than our engagement. And from that day on, society would regard that couple almost as husband and wife, although they wouldn't yet live together. There was an interval of time in which the bride would stay in her own house after the betrothal and the husband would then go off and earn some money and come back and pay the dowry. Paying for his wife, so to speak, to the wife's father.

And at the end of that interval, he would come in his best clothing with all of his best friends down the lane to his wife's house and that would be the start of the wedding procession of his wife to their new home. And sometimes those festivities would carry on for as long as two weeks. At least a week, but as long as two weeks. And during that time of festivity and celebration, there would be a special evening in which there would be a marriage supper. That's the symbolism we're to see in this story. We're not suggesting, of course, that we should follow these customs today. That wouldn't be realistic. But we're suggesting that John is painting a picture for us through this married supper in accord with the customs of his day of what Jesus Christ does for all ages in wedding and betrothing his people to himself.

You see, we are betrothed, dear believer, to Jesus Christ, who is the father's eternal gift. We're engaged as stronger, we're espoused and betrothed to be married to the Lord Jesus Christ on the great day. And that's why Paul said in his preaching to the Corinthians, "He was jealous to betroth you to Jesus Christ, so that one day you might be married with him forever." Remember how the hymn writer put it speaking about the church, not the institution but the spiritual church. "From heaven, he came and sought her to be his holy bride. With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died." You see, what John is saying in this whole passage is that Jesus Christ, the Lamb, has come and given his life as a Lamb to pay the dowry price to his father to purchase his bride so that his bride may come into betrothal here in this life and into marriage forever in glory.

So we, dear believer, are legally and inseparably his from the moment we are born again, the moment we are betrothed to him if we are Christians. But he's coming again. He's coming again down that lane, down that corridor of time with his friends from glory, 10 thousands time, 10 thousands of holy angels to take us as his bride and to bring us into glory, to lead us to his father's house, to present us spotless and perfect to his father in heaven. And what a wedding procession that will be. And there to enter the eternal marriage supper of the Lamb with all its festivities. Not for a week or two weeks, but forever and forever we will be with him and we will be like him and we will behold his glory. That's the picture, that's the symbolism. This is a love story. This is a love history. This is a love relationship. This is a loving covenantal marriage contract.

Sometimes the covenant of grace is presented very mechanically, almost like a business contract between the father and the son. Well, there was transactions between the father and the son as it were in glory, but this is a love story. This is a Jewish wedding that involves choice. Choice of God electing his own, the choice of Christ to die for his own, the choice of the spirit to work in that same people. This is a triune choice. The whole triune God is involved in this wedding. This is a choice not based on mutual attraction. It's a one-sided choice, as it was in those Jewish days.

You see, often the bridegroom didn't choose the bride because of her attraction. The wedding was arranged and the bride often had nothing to say about it. She was drawn into it and was betrothed and married and had to learn to love her husband afterward. And we tremble at the thought. Our concept of love often is a bit awry on the other extreme, isn't it? We think that love always has to be at first sight and then after marriage, love can cool. That's not the way of the ancient times. The whole Trinity is involved. He wins, the Trinity wins his bride. Wins his bride through the preaching of the gospel. It's all one-sided. God chooses us from eternity, god buys us at Calvary, god works with his Holy Spirit in us through the preaching of the gospel, and now we're waiting for him to come back for us to bring us to an eternity of intimacy and fellowship with him who awaits us. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. That's the message of Revelation 19.

So who is this bridegroom? That's the wedding in general, but who is the bridegroom? Well, it's the wedding of the Lamb, says John. The wedding of the Lamb. You'd almost expect from the book of Revelation once you, the wedding of the lion, the strong one, but it says the wedding of the Lamb. Why the Lamb? Well, because the Lamb is a picture of atonement. Of paying the price, paying the dowry price. The Lamb is a picture of atoning love, redeeming love, saving love. The Lamb shows us his love by living for us and dying for us. You see, this love is a very one-sided affair, at least initially. We love him, says John, but why do we love him? Because he first loved us.

When you think about the Lord's Supper next week, isn't that what motivates you? Isn't that what draws you? Isn't that what overwhelms you? The Lamb, that he's his life for you. That he's paid the price of sin for you, that he's chosen you for no reason in you, out of no mutual attraction. You love him because he first loved you. He loved you when you were ugly in yourself. He loved you when you were yet a rebel sinner. He loved you when you were incredibly unattractive in your iniquity. He loved you when your carnal mind was still at enmity toward God. What a marriage. What a bridegroom.

There's no more powerful picture of this bridegroom's love than the picture of the prophet Hosea. Remember that God said to Hosea, "Go take Gomer, marry her, love her. Go on loving her even when she runs off with another man, which she will, and there will be other men as well, but keep on loving her," God says to Hosea. And that's what happened. If not literally, at least figuratively. And Gomer ran off and had a succession of affairs and eventually she ends up in the slave market and when all her lovers had finished with her and when her youth and attractiveness had gone and there was nothing left and she ended up in a slave market, Hosea followed her. And unknown to her, even had paid her lovers to take care of her, just follows her right to the very slave market and he puts a bid in for her and he buys her. Not to get revenge, but of the sheer love and he even promises to be a faithful husband despite all their unfaithfulness to him.

And you see, God uses this as a word picture of how he loves his bride. This is how God loves you, dear believer, Jesus Christ. You've gone a-whoring after many lovers spiritually in your life, but God has come, he's followed you. He hasn't followed you because of anything in you, but despite everything about you, he's followed you. You've offered him nothing but sin, but he's followed you in eternity. He set his love upon you while you were yet a sinner, unclean, unfaithful, adulterous, promiscuous, but he loved you.

Joseph Irons put it this way in his poem. "Preserved in Jesus, when my feet made haste to hell, and there I should have been, but thou dost all things well. Oh, what a Savior. What a bridegroom. When I was playing harlot with this world, he loved me. When I was singing the praises of Babylon, he loved me. He preserved me, he gave me breath to blaspheme his name. He kept the blood circulating in my body. Even when I dedicated my body to sin, he loved me and pursued me and tracked me down. He went all the way to a place called Calvary to the slave market, to the place where sin leads to the shame and degradation of the cross. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. He loved me to the limit of his love. He loved me to the limits of suffering. He loved me beyond the human limits of all agony. He loved me even to the agonies of the forsakenness of his father. He loved me beyond my wildest imagination."

This is what John is saying. In order to pay the dowry price and satisfy the justice of God so that a holy, an infinitely holy God could accept the infinite satisfaction of his son and look upon a sinner like you and say, "Come to the Lord's Supper and remember the death of the Lord who paid the dowry price of your salvation." What a savior, hallelujah. This is why, you see, we don't believe in an Armenian general or universal atonement. Jesus didn't go to the cross as the detached bystander. He didn't go to stand in as a kindly friend. He didn't interpose his blood in some kind of hypothetical atonement. He went there as the husband of his church. He went to the cross as one who was one flesh with his bride. He came to save those in whom the spirit promised to work savingly. The father's election, the son's atonement, the spirit's application. All have exactly the same objects in view. The eternally elect ones loved by father, loved by son, loved by the spirit of God. And he does everything for his bride. Everything.

Sometimes when two people get married, especially when they're old, they get married and sometimes they have an agreement. We'll keep two separate bank accounts. Most of the time though, people say, "Well, we're married now and we'll put our bank accounts in one. We're one flesh. One flesh means one bank account." Well, that's what Jesus does for his people. He didn't say when he saved us, "You are penniless in your sin. In fact, you're deeply in debt. You're over your neck in debt and so I'll marry you, but I want to keep two separate bank accounts." No, no, no. He came as the Advent Savior to become one flesh with us and he took all our liabilities and all our debts and he paid the price of all our sins and he gives us all his wealth, all the blessings of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He was made sin for us who knew no sin. He was numbered with the transgressors so that innumerable evils compassed him about, but there was no sin in him personally. He did it for our sake. He became one flesh with his church so that our sins became his sins, our unrighteousness became his, and he gave us his righteousness for our hellworthiness. This is Calvary's capital punishment. Capital punishment almost always aims at the head, as you know. Whether it's a noose around the neck or a guillotine that comes down on the neck or a bullet between the eyes or electrodes around the temple. Death is a brutal fact. But what happened on Calvary is the most brutal thing this world has ever seen. There, your head, dear child of God, took the death blow. The head suffered for what the body, the body of Christ, the church of all ages, the feet, the hands had done. It was the hand, the very hand that pulled the trigger. It was the feet that brought that criminal to the scene of the crime and the head received the punishment.

But he bore that punishment. He came to that place of Calvary. He came there willingly. He set his heart for it. He went there without objection and he paid the whole price. Even as you pulled the trigger, even as you thrust the sword into his side, even as you crowned him with thorns, he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And he did all that so that he can propose to you this morning. Wilt thou go with this man? Wilt thou be betrothed to me? Wilt thou enter into marriage with the Lord Jesus Christ? It's in this capacity as the Lamb of God, the suffering atoning Lamb of God, that he proposes as the greater Isaac to his Rebekah, "Come to the table of the Lord. Come and go with me throughout your life. Come with all your debts, let's have one bank account before the Father. Come and let me be your Lamb."

Now, there are many people today who want to talk about Jesus as master, as example, as Lord. It's all well and good and he is all of that. But my friend, if you don't know him as your Lamb, if you don't know him as the Savior who paid for your sin, you've never called by his real name. He's a substitute. We need to know as a poor needy sinner that he's taken our place. We need to come before him, repenting of our sin, throwing ourselves on mercy. We need to say, "I will go, I will go with this man, with this Jesus Christ, this son of God to be my Savior and my love and it will be my love and my honor to obey him from this day forth forevermore." He proposes to you even this morning. Will you go with the Lamb? Will you have the Lamb to be your husband, to be your sin bearer, to be your bridegroom? If you'll have him like that, you're invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. But if you won't have him like that, you won't have him at all no matter what else you call him, no matter what else you do with him, because he's the Lamb. It's the wedding of the Lamb. Your sacrifice, your substitute without whom there is no life at all.

But what about the bride? Well, there's some confusion here among commentators about who the bride is. Some say the bride is Israel, some say the bride represents tribulation saints but it's all foolishness, of course. The bride is obviously the Church of Jesus Christ, the living church. Paul tells us in Ephesians that Christ loved the church and gave himself for her that he might make her holy. And so Revelation 19 verse seven says, "Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."

The beautiful picture. That's so real, you've seen it 100 times in daily life, haven't you? The bride-to-be goes down to the store, she gets her wedding dress, she comes home with it. She tries it on in front of the mirror. She's excited, she can't wait. As the days go by, she checks off the date, she counts the number. She knows when it's 50 days, when it's 40 days. She's longing for the big day to come. She gets everything ready. She has a checklist. She's got to have that done by that day, that done by that day. She wants all her ducks in a row so that when it comes to be the time of the wedding, she's completely ready and she can enjoy the wedding in all its richness and glory. That's exactly what John is saying here.

And that's exactly how a Christian should live. That's the way Paul lived. He said in second Timothy four, six through eight, "I have ready to be offered. The time of my departure's at hand. I fought a good fight, I finished my course, I've kept the faith. Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord shall give me at that day. And not to me only, but to all them." You see, here's the secret. "To all them that love his appearing." If you don't love his appearing, my friend, you don't belong with the Lord's Supper. If you do love his appearing and you long for him, you do belong at the Lord's Supper. That's a description of a Christian. Christian is not only a believer and a God fearer, he's also a longer. If I can coin a word, he's a Christ longer.

He looks for him to appear the second time on the clouds, the second advent without sin unto salvation. Spurgeon put it this way. He said, "It ought to be a daily disappointment to you when Christ does not appear and not a foregone conclusion." What about us today? Do we ever long for Christ to come? Are we longing for that day of eternal marriage? Are there times we're even a little bit dissatisfied reverently speaking in a holy sense with even the means of grace on this earth? Even with the Lord's Supper, we're longing for the eternal and perfect Lord's Supper. Oh, how we prize the means of grace here, oh yes. Don't get me wrong, we long to come to church, we long to come to the Lord's Supper, we long to read good books, we long to fellowship with the saints, we long for spiritual means of grace, we long to be with God in prayer and earn his true prayer.

But oh, much more we long to be with him in that perfect land of glory. Like the bride, we are making ourselves ready. That's God, of course working in us, but we're not detached from it. It's the process of sanctification. We're involved. We're involved by putting off, putting off this Babylonian smoke and putting on the things of God. We're longing, we're dressed up, we're trying on the wedding garment, or waiting for the wedding day. Does that describe your life? That's what John says believers in his day were like. They were glad and they were rejoicing. Because the marriage of the Lamb is coming, the Advent Savior is coming, but now a second time. The bride has made herself ready. She's ready to go to be with him.

What a beautiful thing to be ready. What a beautiful thing to be so ready to die that when you have to come to die, you have nothing left to do but to die and to enter into the joy of your Lord. It's the opposite of Babylon. You see, Babylon always wants to be young and glamorous and sensuous, but the bride of the Lamb wants to be with the Lamb. Like that woman who worked for me for a while. Every time she had a birthday, you'd say happy birthday to her, she'd say, "One year closer to being with a Lamb." And you don't want to be younger, you just want to be with Christ. And you look forward to the day when all sin will be done away and you'll be having the desire of your heart, which is the Lamb.

But the beauty of this, you see, is it's not just the bride longing for the bridegroom, it's the bridegroom longing for the bride. Christ longs for his bride when he's on the cross, he endured the cross for the joy that was set before him, Hebrews 12 says, that he could present the entire church one day and the day of the massive corporate marriage supper of the Lamb to his father and say, "Here am I, father, and all those whom thou has given to me."

Psalm 45 puts it this way: "So shall the King," that is Jesus, "greatly desire thy beauty." Made beautiful in him, of course. He's desiring his people. He will beautify you here through sanctification because he's looking forward, dear believer, to seeing you as this beautiful bride one day forever. He greatly desires your beauty. And so the bride and the bridegroom not only long for their wedding day, but they both live for it. Christ lives for it at the right hand of the Father now. You live for it now through every Lord's supper on earth and day by day as you long for his appearing. Oh, what a wedding. What a bridegroom. What a bride. Never has a man sacrificed more for his beloved. Never has anyone gone to greater lengths, humbled himself more, endured more, accomplished more in the great task of winning this bride than what Christ has done.

And never has a father been more wealthy and planned a bigger feast than the marriage supper of the Lamb on the great day. Never has a more noble son honored his father in everything. Never has a man treated his bride-to-be more appropriately. Never has there been a more powerful betrothal pledge. Never a more glorious residence prepared as a dwelling place. Once the bridegroom finally takes the bride into glory, great will be the rejoicing, says John. Great will be the exaltation. Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him. Verse seven says, "The bride makes herself ready, but he wins her. He gives her grace to do it, you see. It's all about him ultimately. That's why Jesus so often says, "Thy faith has saved thee, thy faith hath made thee whole," but it's his work in that bride. We give him the glory.

That's why the title of this sermon is the coming Lord prepares his bride so she can be ready. Never has a bridegroom loved his bride more. Never has a bride waited as long for her bridegroom. Never has a bride sung more songs to her beloved. Never has there been a wedding with more guests than this one will have. Never a more special, beautiful wedding. Never has had a bride had her prince die for her, rise from the dead for her, and give to her his own standing before the father. What a wedding. What a bridegroom. What a bride. Hallelujah.

And they both live. They both live for each other. They both delight in each other each. Well I'm asking you this morning, are you living for Christ and to Christ and in Christ and out of Christ? Is Christ your life? Are you longing for the great day? Have you made yourself ready? Have you put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth? As Paul says, "We are to put off all these," in Colossians 3. "And if you put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering. Are you dressed for the wedding?"

That's why we have preparatory Sabbath. To get ready for the Lord's supper, to be dressed for the betrothal supper next week, but one day as a type for the eternal Lord's Supper in glory. And so verse six puts it this way: "Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth over his bride." And the bride likes to have it that way. He likes to have Christ reign even over every part of the bride's salvation, even over his sanctification. What is sanctification but Christ, I say it with reverence, Christ's beauty treatment of his bride. That's how Paul puts it in Ephesians 5. He says he'll wash her with the washing of water by the word that he might present her to himself, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish, wrinkle-free.

A wrinkle is a sign of age, maybe a sign of disease, maybe a sign of imperfection, but people spend a fortune to reduce or to get rid of their wrinkles. But we're told here that Christ is going to present his church without spot and without wrinkle and without blemish. On the great day, she's going to be fully sanctified. And he'll say, "Father, here's my perfect bride. Perfect in soul, perfect in body. I bought her with my own blood. I beautified her by my gospel and Holy Spirit. And now I've gone to fetch her, Father. I paid the price. I present her to you, faultless Father. Let her in. Let her in."

And when you see a bride, one of the most common statements afterwards from the people is, "Isn't she beautiful? Didn't she look good today?" Well, on a great glorious day when Christ's bride comes home, all of heaven will say, "Isn't she beautiful? She's without spot. She's without wrinkle. Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his wife has made herself ready." The bride is adorned with the white robe of righteousness, the fine white linen of Jesus Christ, the Lamb. The dowry price has been paid. The fine linen symbolizing justification and sanctification has been given. And then John says in verse nine, "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."

And so there's a mixing of metaphors here, a mixing of symbolism. A beautiful mixing between the two things of intimacy with Christ as the bride of Christ, even as we are the guest of Christ at a heavenly meal with Christ. And what John is saying and the Holy Spirit through John is that the marriage in heaven, the relationship with Christ in heaven is both. Heaven in its essence is everlasting, sacred, intimate, sin-free marital union and fellowship with Christ as well as festivity upon Christ. We feast with him even as we're married to him. There's intimacy and there's festivity. Dear believers, you're not only going to be in heaven as the bride of Christ, as precious that is, but you'll also be the guest of Christ. You'll have an eternal, heavenly banqueting house open for you. Heaven is being married to Christ and heaven is feasting upon Christ. It's both. It's both wrapped up into one.

Yes, of course, there's all kinds of things in heaven. We read of gold-paved streets, we read of heavenly mansions. These are all incidentals. Here. John gets at the heart of it. "There'll be a marriage supper, a marriage supper with the Lamb." When you share a supper with someone, congregation, in Bible times, that was a sign of fellowship, a sign of closeness, even a sign of intimacy. That's why the Pharisees were so upset when Jesus ate with publicans and sinners. But that's exactly what makes the gospel so precious and so real and so accessible. He fellowships with publicans and sinners. "Hallelujah. This man receives sinners," the poor sinner cries out. And so Jesus' invitation to needy sinners like us to enjoy the marriage supper with him at the Lord's Supper, but also in the state of our souls is a rich invitation to experience close fellowship. Of fellowship beyond words.

There's no relationship on this earth closer than the close intimacy of a husband and a wife who really, really love each other. They enjoy feasting together. They enjoy playing together. They enjoy worshiping together. They enjoy intimacy together. It's absolutely beautiful. But this relationship with Jesus Christ is even more, even more. Yes, there are no sexual relationships in a physical way in heaven, but there's something greater. There's something deeper. There's something that one old divine called a storm of love and the medieval writers used to call a beatific union with the Lord Jesus Christ. There'll be a closeness to Christ and that marital festive bond. Feasting with him, bathing in his love, glory in his presence, communing with him, enjoying him, putting our head on his bosom, knowing his embraces, the embraces of love, the expressions of love, the bond of love.

There'll be heavenly ecstasy without any sin, without any hindrance. There'll be raptures of holy delight in each other. Beatific union. There'll be a love and an intimacy with the Lord Jesus greater than with the angels who have been in his presence for thousands of years. We'll have the privilege that even the angels won't have to have direct union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ forever. Peter said, "Whom having not seen ye love and whom though now you see him not yet believe in you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Well in that day, it'll be everything. You rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory him whom you have seen and who is now with you forever. And you'll gaze upon your bridegroom with pure delight and your bridegroom will gaze upon you with pure delight. You'll be perfect in soul and body.

"Write it down, John," the angel says, verse nine. "Write it down." And so John writes it down. Blessed are they. Hallelujah. Blessed are they, which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And then as John looks at the wedding invitation he has just inscripturated, he's so overwhelmed that he falls, he falls down to worship in verse 10. He scarcely realizes what he's doing, but he's bowing down before an angel and the angel stops him and says, "John, you've got it wrong." But you see, John is so overwhelmed. He says, "I'm called, I'm invited to the wedding of the Lamb." But then in verse 10, he gets it right. He worships God and the angel says, "God alone is worthy to be praised.? To worship God is to praise him.

And though the word hallelujah is not used in verse 10, the essence of praising God, the essence of hallelujah fills the entire verse. It's as if the four hallelujahs in the preceding verses just cascade on and roll over into the heart of John so that he cannot but respond with a quiet wonderful, "Hallelujah." If I could coin a word, I would say he hallelujahed God, the triune God. Have there been times in your life, my friend, that you could not? You could not not worship God? You could not hallelujah him? And if you've had such hallelujah moments in this life because the Lord saves you and invites you and calls you to the marriage supper of the Lamb, what must the actual, eternal supper be in the land of never-ending hallelujahs? Eye, where eye has not seen and ear has not heard nor has it entered into the imagination of man what the Lord has prepared for those who love him.

Dear congregation, if your only hope for salvation is in Christ and you long to be with him forever, justified, sanctified in his sight, wearing his fine white linen, all my friend, that he wondrously, he marvelously calls you today to next week's marriage supper of the Lamb and this very sermon is your invitation card. "Come, you are welcome to the wedding," it says. Hallelujah. Will you come to the wedding?

There's a sense, of course, in which we're all called to this wedding. The Gospel is to be preached invitingly to all creatures. God is sincere in his offer to all. The invitations go out to everyone. All are welcome to come to Christ. But to come to this wedding next Sunday morning at the table and to get into the heavenly eternal Lord's Supper, you must be born again. You must respond to the invitation in truth. You must know something, even in small measure, of the marks of the spirit's saving grace in your soul. You must know something of a true mourning over sin, a true repentance, a true saving faith that teaches you your need of the bridegroom and introduces you to the bridegroom and by the spirit and moves you to view him as your only hope of salvation. He's not your only hope of salvation, you don't belong at the Lord's Supper, because the whole Lord's Supper is about remembering him. If he's a total stranger, what can you remember if you don't know him at all?

But if you know something of your own depravity and something of his marvelous deliverance and something of that holy yearning to live out of gratitude, if you know something of desire for the marriage feast, if you are a longer for Christ, longing for him and for his salvation, grieving how little you know of him, but you long to know more of him, he says, "Come. The marriage of the Lamb is ready. Come to the supper." But if you're unsaved, you don't know these marks of grace, then the question for you should not be should I come to the Lord's supper? The question for you should be, how can I be saved? How can a man be just with God? How can I just come before God just as I am and respond to his invitation in the Gospel and fall at his feast and cast myself on mercy alone? You need to think more about salvation than the Lord's Supper, because you're not saved. So we heard last Thursday morning.

You see, you can get to heaven without money, you can get to heaven without education, you can get to heaven without beauty, you can get to heaven without friends, but you can't get to heaven without Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with him. And the clock is ticking, my friend. I can't tell you how this world is going to end. Perhaps it's going to go up in flames from a nuclear holocaust. That's looking increasingly possible, but I can't tell you that. But I can tell you this: There's going to be a wedding at the end. There's going to be a wedding of all weddings. And sinner, you're invited now to be prepared for this wedding. The gospel demands a response from you. It demands your RSVP. What will you do? Will you keep going to the funeral of Babylon all your life and die in the smoking ruins of Babylon and the eternal abyss of separation from God, or will you receive the invitation of Christ and cleave to him? Where you'll forsake all the harlots of this world, all the suitors and cleave only to Christ and be one flesh with him.

Will you respond in faith? Which really is nothing but an acronym for forsaking all, I take him. F-A-I-T-H. That's what faith is. Forsaking all, I take him. Hallelujah. The supper's coming, and very soon your child of God, you'll be with your real husband forever. Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his wife has made herself ready. Amen. Pray God of heaven, we thank you so much for the gospel. We thank you so much for this future wedding, this present betrothal. And we pray, Lord, prepare us even this week through the Advent Savior, through the coming Lord's Supper for that great and notable day of eternal and everlasting marriage. Please help us to discern whether we have been betrothed and if not, oh, may we make haste for our life's sake. Bless us with Christ, we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Hallelujah: The Coming Lord Prepares His Bride! (All of Life for God) (2024)


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