The Marriage of the Lamb

Report of an Address

"The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Revelation 19:7-8).

A woman, arrayed in purple and scarlet, called in the plain language of Scripture "the great whore"; and the Lamb's wife clothed in fine linen, clean and white — these two we see in these latter chapters of the Revelation; and they stand out in startling contrast the one to the other, both as to their character and destiny. Chapters 17 and 18 describe for us the magnificence, the power, the far-stretching influence, the horrible corruption and terrible doom of the former. Chapter 19 shows us the purity and blessedness of the latter, her destiny is the glory of the Lamb. The former, whose names are given to us in capital letters in our Bible, is "Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." IT IS ROME. She professes to be the true church, the faithful spouse of the Lamb, but she is false, and denies in principle and practice His Name, character and word; she will become, as shown in these chapters, utterly apostate, and shall fall under the overwhelming and righteous judgments of God.

This mystery, described in its twofold character of the great whore and Babylon, is not Popery stripped of its temporal power as we know it yet working insidiously but ceaselessly to undermine and destroy what is known as the Protestant faith, but popery triumphant. In the time described in these chapters it will have gathered into its magnificent but corrupt unity the whole profession of Christianity, and will have brought into complete subjugation the Western nations. It will not only have enslaved the consciences of men religiously, but will also have control over their politics. The woman rides the beast. The kings that she will dominate will hate her for her arrogance, and will eventually destroy her and so fulfil the will of God, but for a while she will hold an undisputed sway over them all. This is all plainly taught in chapter 17.

Rome is working for this universal supremacy now, but she cannot achieve it while the true church is here; the presence of the Holy Ghost in the church, and the restraining hand of God prevent it. But at the coming of the Lord, as given in 1 Thessalonians 4, the true church, which is the one body of Christ, and which is to be the wife of the Lamb, will be caught up to heaven, then the hindrance will be removed out of the way and apostate Rome will speedily reach the goal of her ambition. The true church, that which the Lord spoke of in Matthew 16 as "My church," is not a great organization, held together by human power and wisdom, but is made up of all who have in sincerity owned Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, all such have a vital link with Him as the Son of God, and are not Christians by profession only. They are united in one body to Christ, who is their Head in heaven. This is a unity that is of God, and it will abide for ever; the other is a unity that is of the devil and it will perish in the depths of perdition. But Rome is making rapid progress towards its desired end, showing that we are in "the last days." The growing love of ritual and popish practices in the English and other state churches are an evidence of this, and of the power and influence that it already wields. O Christians, let us be fully awake to the situation. There are two great unities in Christendom, and they are growing to their completion. The Spirit of God is the power in one, and the spirit of evil works in the other. We must be wholeheartedly in that which is of God and separate from that which is corrupt and of the devil. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing" (2 Cor. 6:1). "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4).

Chapter 19 opens with the adoration of the host in heaven; they rejoice and praise God that He has judged the false and corrupt church which instead of being a witness for Christ in the earth, and so the channel of blessing to it, has corrupted it with its own terrible corruption. "True and righteous are His judgments," they say, as they turn from beholding the destruction of the evil thing, to rejoice in that which is eternally good. They celebrate the supremacy of the Lord God omnipotent, and if He reigneth none can thwart His eternal purposes. These have as their centre Christ and His church — the Lamb and His wife. Yes, before the worlds were made it was in the heart of God that His beloved Son should have a bride; and in this chapter the hour has arrived, and all heaven rejoices with a great joy. "I heard," says John, "as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings." "Let us be glad," say they, "and rejoice … for the marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife has made herself ready." It is the joy of God that fills every heart and rolls in its wonderful melody to the utmost bounds of heaven. The Father rejoices, for the hour has come for the consummation of His purpose for the joy of His Son; the Son rejoices, for the hour has come in which He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; the Holy Ghost rejoices that His work is completed, and that the Bridegroom is satisfied with the bride that He has brought to Him. And cannot we who love the Saviour rejoice also in anticipation of His joy, which we shall surely share, for we are part of that which is to be His wife.

If we are to understand God's purposes we cannot neglect any part of God's Word. The Holy Scriptures are not fragmentary, but one complete whole, so we read, "No Scripture is of private interpretation." That means no Scripture stands alone, each part of it has its connection with every other part. So we find that the beginning of Genesis connects with the end of Revelation. This purpose that was in the heart of God for the joy of His beloved Son was first expressed at the creation of man. He was made in the image and after the likeness of God and set in dominion over this lower creation, and the acuteness of his mind was proved in that when God brought the animals to him he was able to give each a name that described its character. But he had a heart as well as a mind, for God Himself has a heart as well as a mind, and none of the animals nor all the power that was given to Adam could satisfy his heart. Hence God said, "It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helpmeet for him." With that in view God cast him into a deep sleep, and took a rib from him, and with it He built a woman, and when Adam awoke, he said, "This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." She was part of himself, and she satisfied his heart.

The New Testament tells us that Adam was a figure of Him that was to come, of Christ. He is to have universal dominion, and in that place of glory and power He is to have a helpmeet who shall be more to Him than it all, for she shall satisfy His heart. But He had first to go into the deep sleep of death. It was this that was foreshadowed in Adam's sleep, and as a result of His death He has secured for Himself His church, so we read, "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27).

Let no one think that it is mere fancy that connects the beginning of the Bible in this way with the end of it; the Bible itself does it, for Eve's marriage to Adam is introduced as an illustration of Christ and the church in Ephesians 5, where it is said, "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

Take special notice of the fact that it is the Marriage of the Lamb. In this Book of the Revelation the Lord bears many great titles. In chapter 5 He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah; in chapter 12 He is the Man-child that shall rule the nations with a rod of iron; in chapter 16 He is the King of kings; in chapter 22 He is Alpha and Omega; great and varied are His glories, upon His head are many crowns, but when the Marriage comes it is not by any of these titles that He is known, but as the Lamb. The joy of the marriage day is linked up with the sorrows of Calvary. It is the One who bowed His head beneath the judgment of God in death who is to see of the travail of His soul, and receive to Himself His church, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The Lamb was the sacrifice. He became sacrificially what we were actually, for He was made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, and the sorrow through which He passed then is to have a full answer of joy in the day that is to come.

This great event will take place in heaven, for it the church must be there complete, and perfect, and so it shall be, for "The Lord Himself shalt descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Not one blood-bought saint will be missing from that glorified company, and all will be there not because of their faithfulness, but because of the value of the blood of Christ; they will be there accepted in Him, the Beloved.

"AND HIS WIFE HATH MADE HERSELF READY." She does not make herself fit or ready for heaven; her fitness for that spotless home of eternal love is Christ Himself, for He "is made to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." But she makes herself ready for the marriage; and that by being clothed in fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousnesses of the saints. The word should be in the plural, it is righteousnesses, not righteousness. Christ alone is our righteousness, but being made righteous in Him, the saints of God are able to produce good works on earth, and these are the fine linen, clean and white, that shall be the marriage robe of the wife of the Lamb on that great day. In Eastern lands, I suppose, the bride is presented to the bridegroom in the garments her own fingers have wrought. It shall be so with the wife of the Lamb, for to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. But how and where can this material be produced? Suppose a prince wishes to appear at some great state occasion in a garment designed and made by himself, but when he looks round for the material that will suit his design, he finds nothing that satisfies him, nor any loom upon which it can be woven. What must he do? He must invent a loom that can produce the material, and then when his cloth is ready he can fashion it as he will for his own satisfaction and the praise of his genius. So it is, God determined, when He purposed that the Lamb should have a bride, the very sort of garment she should wear; it was to be of fine linen, clean and white, but where on earth, among men, could it be found? In Old Testament days God gave men the opportunity of bringing it forth; and He gave them the law, a perfect loom upon which to do it. But they miserably failed in their efforts, and after centuries of patience with them, God had to say, "ALL YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES ARE AS FILTHY RAGS." "They that are in the flesh cannot please God."

Then was God's intention to fail? No. If I may use my illustration — He has brought into being a new loom capable of producing that which he desires. The Lord Jesus came into the world to do the will of God. He lived a life of complete obedience to God, and near the end of it He took three of His disciples into the holy mount and there He was transfigured before them, "and His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow: so as no fuller on earth could white them" (Mark 9:3). This was an unearthly, heavenly whiteness, emblematic of the life of righteousness He had lived on earth. And God said, I am going to reproduce that life in My saints; and so we read, "FOR WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS UNTO GOOD WORKS, WHICH GOD HATH BEFORE ORDAINED THAT WE SHOULD WALK IN THEM" (Eph. 2:10). I want that statement to be understood by us all, for upon it I am hanging the whole of this part of my address. God has a loom now that can do it, and you Christians, young or old, are part of it. Upon that loom He is producing fine linen, clean and white, He is reproducing in His people now the graces that shone in all their perfection in Jesus. The life of Jesus is being manifested in their mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:10).

We all know how textiles are produced. There is the loom, the weaver, and the raw material. As a matter of fact the raw material goes through a series of processes before it reaches the loom, but there it is at last, and as the weaver works the warp and weft into the loom, the loom works out the finished article. And that is what we get in Philippians 2:12-13. "WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING; FOR IT IS GOD THAT WORKETH IN YOU, BOTH THE WILLING AND THE DOING OF HIS GOOD PLEASURE." God is the great weaver, we are the loom, and as He works in us we must work out the fine linen, clean and white. He is, He must be, deeply interested in our lives and ways with the marriage of the Lamb in view.

But what is this fine linen? Says one, "I should like to serve the Lord Jesus, but I cannot stand upon the platform and preach to multitudes, or do any great work for Him; I am ignorant and poor, and my life is lived in obscurity." Do not think that this fine linen is preaching or doing some spectacular service; many a man preaches to large congregations and produces nothing but filthy rags, for self is the end and aim of his efforts. But there is a poor woman who loves the Saviour, and she is producing fine linen in abundance. Happy in His love she starts her arduous day with a song of praise and thanksgiving to God — that is a bit of fine linen. When spoken to harshly she answers with meekness, and overcomes evil with good — that is another bit of fine linen. You need not be great and famous for this, if you can be patient and forbearing when you are not treated well, and if you can FORGIVE — Ah, that is difficult, is it not? He spoke ill of you. She was so spiteful. And you have already been kind and forgiving. Your patience is exhausted, and you can't forgive again! Can't you? You who have been forgiven so much! Yes, grace can enable you to do it, and if you do, it will be fine linen, clean and white, for that is what Jesus did: when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not and when His foes did their worst, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance — all these are fine linen, clean and white, and not one thread of it will ever be lost. God Himself will preserve it, it is imperishable. You may not have thought when you did that kind act for Jesus' sake that it would live for ever, but it will; and that word of cheer and comfort spoken to a tried and sorrowing saint will never be forgotten, nor will that effort to win a soul for the Saviour. All these things will go to make up the marriage garment. Every Christian has the privilege of contributing to it, then how important it is that we should be walking in lowness of mind and obedience to God that His gracious work may go on in us and through us. He has left us in the world for this, may we not forget it. Do not say that this is beyond you. Think again of my text. You are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus with this end in view. Is that true? Thank God, it is, if you are saved by His grace. Then you have been fitted by Him to produce this fine linen. Do not doubt that, but place yourself without reserve in His hands, and it shall be done.

This garment of fine linen, clean and white, will be a wonderful triumph for God. He will be able to show in that day the reality of His work in His saints. He will be able to show that in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil, that beset His saints on earth and conspire to make them false to their Lord, they have brought forth these righteousnesses. So will the devil be defeated and the accusations that are brought against the saints be silenced. How wonderful it is, that in this filthy place, a world reeking with moral putrefaction, this work is going on, and that we may have our part in it. We have but to keep near to our Lord and His love will constrain us to be very diligent in this matter.

After the marriage the Lord will come forth as King of kings and Lord of lords, but when He does His saints will come with Him in this same raiment (v. 14). They will share His triumph and glory and live and reign with Him a thousand years (chap. 20).

We have one last view of the church in chapter 21. The first eight verses of that chapter describe the eternal state of things in which nothing will change, and there we see the Holy City coming down from God out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. When kingdoms and governments have served their purpose and ceased to be, and God shall dwell with men and rest in His love, the church will still abide as Christ's own possession. It is described "as a bride adorned for her husband," and that means she will be for Him for ever, and only for Him. Are we not thrilled at the thought that the day is coming when we shall be altogether and exclusively for Him, without a rival.

Now we sing sadly —

"O Lord, alas, what weakness
  Within myself I find,
No infant's changing pleasure
  Is like my wandering mind."

But it will not be so then. All fickleness will be over, and Christ will be for ever the sole and supreme object of our hearts. The bride of the Lamb will receive into her heart His love in its infinite fullness, and she will respond to it without any reserve. Wonderful prospect!