I’ve been in three weddings in 2017. That’s three sacred ceremonies, three new marriages, and three beautiful brides in white dresses. While I’m not married myself, I’ve been involved in enough weddings to know that the bride is expected to be magnificent in appearance, and she is always radiantly beautiful on that day.
Scripture often calls the Church—the body of believers—the Bride of Christ. We’ve seen this in Revelation already. Some scholars say the Bride mentioned in Revelation 21:9 is the city, the New Jerusalem. Regardless if the Bride referenced in this particular instance is the city or the people, we know that the people—the Lamb’s wife—will dwell in that city. We see that God’s people are not just the Gentiles nor solely the Jews, but all of God’s elect. The city has gates inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, representing the faithful Israelites, but also has foundations inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles, representing the Christian church. We see here in this city the unification of God’s redemptive story—all of His people gathered as one Bride belonging to Him.
Why is the term “Bride” used to describe the believers/the New Jerusalem? The only humanly way we can express the love God has for us is in a marriage metaphor. This metaphor describes our belonging to God and His commitment to us—marriage is, above all, a commitment. The Lamb, as the Bride’s husband, protects and serves her. He never abandons her. Marriage also denotes intimacy, a theme found in verses 23–27, where it is said that God Himself will be the only light needed in the New Jerusalem.
The church—the Bride—is dearly loved despite its adultery. The Israelites often “cheated” on their Creator by worshipping idols. Sadly, this practice is still alive in the church today. We may not be bowing down to golden images, but we devote most of our affections and energies to things other than God. Hallelujah that He is faithful to us even if we are unfaithful! It is only by the blood of Christ that we can be presented as a pure Bride, faultless and worthy to live in God’s beautiful city. His righteousness is what makes us radiant.
Revelation 21:9-27 (ESV):
Note: Allison McSwain serves as a Student Ministry Intern. She is also a student at Beeson Divinity School.
9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.