The Wedding Reception
Wedding receptions can be terribly awkward at times. The actual wedding ceremony is the easy part – you find a seat, hopefully near someone you know, and watch as two people pledge themselves to each other, and then wait to be dismissed so you can greet the couple before waiting outside for them to leave in a shower of rice or bubbles. The reception, however, is full of awkward potential. Assigned seats at a table of complete strangers, craning your neck around to see what’s going on at the wedding party’s table, and, perhaps worst of all, the possibility of being forced into making a fool of yourself while dancing the YMCA.
In spite of all this awkwardness, the reception is really where the fun of the whole wedding experience takes place. The official act of getting married is done; the only thing left is to celebrate the lives of the couple up to this point and the future of their lives together. Words are spoken, pictures are displayed set to sentimental music, toasts to the bride and groom are offered; and, if it’s a good reception, awkward stories told by the best man or maid of honor will ensue.
The reception for my friend’s wedding was a good reception. Having two best men, both best friends to the groom since childhood, guarantees a good story or two. Laughter and praises were shared as those closest to the couple expressed their love, respect, and desire for this new relationship to flourish and be all that they hoped it would be. A slideshow rolled, complete with baby pictures, one awkward photo of the bride with someone else at her high school prom, and a whole stream of pictures of the couple throughout their time together.
A similar celebration is described in the Bible, a celebration set to take place when the Bride and the Bridegroom are finally joined as one. In theological terms it’s referred to as the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” and Revelation 19 describes it this way: “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.” The wedding of Christ to His Bride has taken place, the celebration is at hand, and Revelation describes “a great multitude in heaven” (think wedding guests) and “twenty-four elders and the four living creatures” (think bridal party) all present and singing their praises to Christ. The elders and creatures lead the praise of Christ at this celebration, just as the wedding party stands before the attendees to share their praise of the newlywed couple.
And then a very curious thing happens. Christ on His white horse is leads an army which comes to destroy the enemies of God, upon whose flesh the wedding guests will dine. Talk about an awkward reception meal. To get a better grasp of why we’ll be “feasting on flesh” at this reception, consider the context. The wedding has just happened, the celebration has begun, and much like that one awkward photo of the bride with her prom date, the very things that have kept the bride and groom apart are defeated, part of the past, never to tear them apart again. As Christ comes victoriously and the wedding guests feast, it is a feast because of and in honor of the fact that all those things are past, no longer will anyone or anything stand between Christ and His Bride. In consuming the flesh of those defeated, the reception is made complete by the fact that all those past things – the unfaithfulness and temptations that kept them apart – only serve to make this union all the sweeter. For in spite of all these failures, in spite of all these past times of unfaithfulness, the Bride still stands “bright and pure” before the Groom who so gracefully and lovingly welcomes Her into relationship with Him.
And just like that, it’s all over. Anybody who is married or has seen “Father of the Bride” can tell you that it all goes by so fast. The guests slowly head home while the couple is whisked away to an exotic location for their honeymoon. Revelation 21-22 describes this honeymoon, the final culmination of a love story that has spanned the scope of human history. God and His people are one, swept off not merely to an exotic locale but to a world remade, a world where we, His Bride, “will see his face, and his name will be on our foreheads. And night will be no more. We will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be our light, and we will reign forever and ever.”
We, as members of His Bride, share in this hope. Not hope for a disembodied, cloud-filled existence, but hope of a covenantal love that will never end. We the engaged wait patiently yet anxiously for the wedding day when we will finally be united with the One who has been in passionate pursuit of us for millennia. We speak alongside the apostle John when he closes his vision of this final union with the fitting cry, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”