I was reading my youngest son, Craig’s, First15 devotional (If you haven’t tried it you should!). Craig was writing about the promise of Christ’s return and said, “He’s so overjoyed to walk in relationship with you right now, but like you, he longs for something greater. Like a bridegroom patiently awaits the marriage ceremony, he’s waiting, expectant for what is to come.” That sentence gave me pause for a couple of reasons. First, I have never spent a great deal of time thinking about how Jesus feels about his return. Second, those thoughts made me think about God’s mandates for the marriage relationship in a new way, as it relates to the end times.
We have heard Bible lessons, sermons, and often thought about Christ’s second coming. The emphasis is usually about the hope we have as we wait for Jesus to return. Revelation teaches us that when Jesus comes again we will go to heaven and experience the glory of eternal life. We don’t know very much about heaven. Scripture is amazingly limited on the subject and I’ve often wondered why. I think it would be easier to speak and teach about salvation if I had a few more details to promise people. Scripture tells us some things about heaven and they are all good. But, what is God serving at the banquet? What will the mansion look like? Are the streets truly gold or just gold in color? And, how will we talk with others? What about the relationships we will have eternally with our spouses, our friends, our family?
I imagine heaven is too complex for an earthly mind to comprehend. I don’t think we own the right vocabulary for God to explain heaven. How does a person explain trigonometry to a two-year-old . . . who speaks a different language? I don’t know very much about heaven, but I know everything I need to know. Heaven is real. Heaven is eternal. And heaven is the place where we will know Jesus face to face, in his glory. Craig’s devotional caused me to think about why Jesus is so anxious for us to be there. Jesus is excited for us to gain heaven, and he is looking forward to being with us in a perfect, sinless, brand new relationship. He endured his time on earth and his suffering in death to make sure we could go to heaven. Eternal life is the greatest gift Jesus could give us and he loved us. Even we want to give our best gifts to the people we love. Of course Jesus wanted us to have heaven!
That led to my second thought. I’ve been doing some extra teaching and speaking lately. I typically speak from an outline and pray that the Holy Spirit will fill in the rest. Lately, I’ve heard myself referring to the marriage relationship and God’s call for people to remain virgins until marriage. When that subject comes up I see a lot of discomfort in the young faces in front of me. God’s word is very clear about the marriage relationship, but most young people don’t believe those verses are relevant any more.
A recent CNN article reported, “Eighty percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18–29) said that they have had sex.” That number is probably low based on those who choose not to admit it. Evangelical young adults are the people we see in churches and Bible studies each week, and at least eighty percent of them are not remaining virgins until marriage. Does that still matter to God, and how does that relate to our eternal relationship with Jesus?
Craig’s First15 referred to the passage Christ gave us about his second coming. Revelation 21:2 says, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The picture from Revelation of Jesus’ return is that of a bridegroom waiting for his bride. That picture was meant to describe the beginning of a new and wonderfully close relationship we will have with Jesus after his second coming. That passage assumes people would understand the difference between a relationship before and after marriage.
Marriage is God’s plan for our lives because it is the closest explanation we have for our relationship with Christ on earth, versus our relationship with him in heaven. Thinking about Jesus, waiting for his bride, the Church, with the same anticipation a virgin groom feels, waiting for his virgin bride on their wedding day, is the most accurate description Scripture could give for the way Jesus is waiting for us today.
Maybe all of us need to spend a little more time emphasizing the sanctity and importance of marriage. We won’t be popular. We probably won’t be considered “relevant.” But we will be teaching the important truth of God’s word. God wanted people to understand our eternal relationship with Jesus. Biblical marriage was the best way for us to understand how Jesus anticipates our eternal relationship together in eternity, but also our present relationship with him on earth.
We are waiting. We wait with joy, we wait with longing, we wait with hope and expectation. And Jesus feels the same way about waiting for us. We are supposed to be waiting. Christians need to stay pure in our earthly relationships out of gratitude and obedience to our eternal “bridegroom.” I think Jesus wants us to start talking about “virginity” a little more often. God’s position has not changed, but the church’s position quietly has. We are often choosing not to offend, but, what is the cost of going silent on this subject? The next time it comes up, pray and ask God for the words he wants you to speak.
There is an eternal reason for a biblical theology of marriage. Hang on to God’s truth, for heaven’s sake.
This article was originally published on March 7, 2017.