Marriage Convenient or Marriage Covenant: Six Truths About and Six Threats Toward Marriage (Genesis — Revelation)

worldview.pngThe Bible begins with a marriage, and it ends with a marriage. In fact, the goal of all humanity is a spiritual union between Christ and his bride the Church. In between, we must decide if we will abide by God’s design for marriage or design our own.

To be completely honest, every single one of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s ideal for sex and marriage. Born outside the Garden of Eden, we cannot experience marriage as it was created to be. Sin has tainted every part of life, including the desires that move us towards love, romance, and sexual relationships.

Thankfully, the goal is not to rebuild what we have torn down. As Galatians 2:18 indicates: this only proves we are lawbreakers. Rather, the Bible gives su a vision of coming marriage that is offered to all who look to God for redemption. Hope, therefore, is found in embracing the gospel  and seeking the marriage he offers through faith in him. By entrance into this covenant, we find renewed grace to pursue a path of holiness and wisdom with our sexuality.

God’s grace, then, is the singular answer to our sin. And a future marriage is the singular source solution to a host of threats against marriage today. In yesterday’s sermon I outlined six threats to God’s design for marriage. You can listen to the message online or read the notes. Discussion questions and resources for further study below. Continue reading

God’s Design for Marriage: A Story and a Song


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. 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; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
— Revelation 19:6–9 —

What is marriage supposed to look like? What is its design? Who gets to set the standard? And how do we test whether one’s marriage is a good or not, let alone pleasing to God?

These, and dozens of other questions, haunt us today. They haunt us because marriage has been redefined and repackaged into a million different Do-It-Yourself romantic projects. Yet, the original still remains—one man and woman woman united by covenant until death.

The reason the original design remains intact is because the shifting shadows of marriage on earth cannot alter the substance in heaven. And it is the heavenly marriage to which all history lunged toward—namely, the blessed union of Christ and his Bride.

On Sunday, I will preach on the good design of marriage and how the future vision of marriage protects us from the erasure of marriage in our day. To help prepare my heart and yours for that message, I share a story and a song that should fire our moral imaginations for what marriage lived in light of eternity should be—indeed, can be when we let Scripture shape our affections. Continue reading

Eternal Judgment: An Unbelievable Problem or A Blessed Promise?

Yesterday, I argued that there is a certain kind of beauty to the reality of hell.

Now, if that sentence is taken by itself, it sounds cruel and compassionless, but indeed when we consider what Revelation 19 records, we need to see that just as there is incredible beauty in the wedding feast of the lamb (Rev 19:6-10), there is a corresponding beauty in Christ’s decisive victory and eternal judgment over all those who stand against him.

Therefore, we look again at Revelation 19:1-5, to behold the beauty of the victorious Lord.  But before reading on, please read yesterdays post; both are necessary to see how Scripture portrays Christ’s beautiful victory over his foes.

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Hell: A Terrible Problem or a Beautiful Promise?

Last year, Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins, a book about “heaven, hell, and the fate over every person”sold more than 185,000 copies. When it was released, it took the # 2 spot on the NYT best-seller list.  For all of 2011 it went in and out of the “Top 100”—often in the Top 10.  The book tour included audiences of 3000 people.  In all, it amassed an incredible response of a subject—hell—that most in our culture would choose to ignore. Sadly, the book’s presentation challenged orthodoxy and worse, misread the passages that defend the literal reality of eternal judgment.

Shortly after the book was released Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle released their response: Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up.  In their book, Chan and Sprinkle provided a strong, biblical exposition of the doctrine—there is a literal, conscious, eternal hell for those who are outside of Christ.

Their defense was needed, bold, and biblical.  But was it beautiful?  That is what Trevin Wax asked last year.  And it is a valuable question.  Can hell be beautiful?  And if so, how?  Does the Bible command orthodox Christians to love hell, or simply to believe that it exists? (This is a question that Kevin DeYoung wrestled with last year as well in his post: Is it Okay for Christians to Believe in the Doctrine of Hell But Not Like It?)

Such questions led me to preach a sermon last year entitle “The Beauty of Hell.”  While not trying to paint a picture of hell as unalloyed beauty—because the vision of men and women made in God’s image suffering eternally is a horrific reality—it is vital for evangelicals to see that when all is said and done, the Scriptures portray God’s eternal victory over evil as a beautiful and glorious thing.

Accordingly, we will look at one passage which displays God’s eternal destruction of those in hell as a beautiful. In Revelation 19:1-5, John hears and records a chorus of hallelujahs.  Each shout of praise tells something about God and his cosmic victory. These include the victorious judge, the eternal victory, the beauty of a defeated foe.

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Two Weddings and a Funeral :: Two Funerals and a Wedding

A Wedding Sermon

If you look at the big picture of the Bible, you will see that it is about two weddings and a funeral!  In the first book of the Bible and the last, weddings take center-stage.  And between them, leading from one to the other, is a funeral, but one without a grave.

In Genesis 1, God says in verses 26-28,

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

What Genesis 1 tells us in brief Genesis 2 gives with more detail.  Genesis 2 records that when God made Adam, he was alone and it was not good.  So God paraded all the animals of the earth before Adam, and yet a suitable helper was not found.

Then we learn that Adam was put into a deep sleep by God, and that from his rib God made a helper suitable for him.  Genesis 2:23 tells of Adam’s exuberant reaction, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh or my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.”

Genesis 2 continues,

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man his wife were naked and were not ashamed.”

 So it was in the beginning, God created marriage.  He called it good.  It was his idea.  His invention.  One man.  One woman.  In covenant together, forever.  A union of love, intimacy, pleasure, and security.

And so human history, in every culture and in every land, has celebrated marriage, as we do today.  Even with the effects of sin that plague marriage, it is a glorious gift that God has given to humanity.  The joy that we feel today, as with the regular joys of home life, is a taste of God’s goodness and love.  In a world torn-apart by sin, it is the place that God has designed for as a refuge from the storms of life.

But marriage is not an end in itself.

God gave marriage to Adam and Eve, and God gave marriage to everyone else to point to a greater marriage.  This is where the second marriage comes in.

In Revelation 19, the Bible records the marriage of Jesus Christ to his bride, the church.

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 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; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (19:6-9)

It is not an accident that one of the last acts in the Bible is a marriage.  For this was God’s plan from the beginning—to establish an eternal covenant of love between himself and all those who trust in Christ.

So the Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage. But to get from one to the other, it has to pass through a funeral.

The central feature of the Bible, is the cross of Jesus Christ.  The death that he died on Calvary, to pay for the sins of the world.  And interestingly, one of the ways that the Bible describes Jesus’ death, is that of a husband for his wife.

Ephesians 5:25 reads:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor…

What we see described in Revelation 19 was accomplished by Jesus death on the cross.   The second and eternal marriage of Christ is the wonderful result of Christ’s death and resurrection.  The death and resurrection which overcame all the corruptions that have marred humanity and the marriages that have come after Adam and Eve.

So today, as we consecrate this marriage, I want to remind you that for your marriage to last and experience God’s blessing, it requires an ongoing and growing relationship with Jesus Christ and hope in marriage to Him.

In fact, what we see today in your wedding depicts in minuet, what that final wedding will be like.  A faithful husband taking a radiant bride and loving her and caring for her for eternity.  In this way, your marriage is not just your own, it is Christ’s!

Two Funerals Before Your Wedding

This wedding today marks out the fact that you are covenanting together today to be husband and wife.  A husband and wife that are first committed to Jesus Christ, and from his saving love, you are committing to love one another until death – and death alone – separates you.

To the husband

You are committing to love your bride like Christ loved the church, to give up yourself for her, to be her spiritual leader, and her sacrificial lover.  To cherish her, to nourish her, to consider her before yourself.  You are taking on the role as one who promises to love like Christ, and to lay down your life for her.

In order to be the kind of husband that she needs, you will need to die to self, daily.  The cross of Jesus Christ must become more precious to you every day.  The forgiveness that God gives to you in Christ must spur you on to love him more, and in turn to love your bride more purely, more passionately, more completely.   The death of Christ must become ever increasing in your sights, so that the resurrected life of Christ will continue to work in you.

To the bride

Today you are pledging to be your husbands helpmate.  To trust him, to respect him, and to submit to his leadership.  Just as the church lovingly follows Christ, so you are to walk by his side, as a woman of virtue and character, cultivating a godly home and co-laboring with Ryan to raise children who know the love of God because of your model before them.

But in order to be the kind of wife that he will need you to be, and to be the kind of wife that Scripture commends, you too will need to die to yourself daily.  You must look to the cross of Christ for the grace that you will need to love and live with this man.  And some days you will need it more than others!

In the Bible, there are two weddings and a funeral.  A funeral that was cut short, because Christ rose from the grave!

In your lives, as the two of you become one, there must be two funerals for your marriage to succeed. For your marriage to know and show the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the two of you must die with Christ daily, and live by the power of the Holy Spirit—directing you, empowering you, helping you to love one another, learning to forgive one another and to pursue peace with one another, in a way that only Jesus Christ can give to you.

We live in world today where marriage is a cheap and disposable thing.  Where God created it to last forever, too many people treat it like plastic silverware.  Use it a time or two, and get rid of it.

In treating it with such disdain, the world misses God’s purpose for marriage and his blessing.  Satan will tempt you with the same thoughts, but if you look to Christ together every day, God will accomplish his plans and purposes in your marriage, and your marriage will shine like a light, a light that point others to the marriage supper of the lamb, one that will last forever.

You see, Christ’s funeral did not end in a tomb, it won a bride and finished with a feast.  So too, the power of the resurrection is available for your marriage, if you will daily look to Christ and ask him to establish your marriage in grace and truth!

May God be pleased to make your marriage one that is filled with the joy and love of Jesus Christ and shows to the world the coming Marriage Supper of the Lamb!