After more than 25 years in college ministry, I have attended my fair share of bridal showers. Games, toilet paper wedding dresses, and devotionals from Song of Solomon are par for the course, as are the jokes and gifts that make the bride blush. I can usually figure out something else I would rather be doing, truth be told.
But today, there was nowhere else I wanted to be than with a group of friends to celebrate the upcoming nuptials a former student, colleague, and fellow gospel worker. And thankfully, the games and toilet paper were nowhere to be found. I was honored to share a few thoughts from Scripture with my friends–single, married, and about-to-be-married.
I shared from Hebrews 8 where we read about the priests who minister with offerings and gifts prescribed by the law. These are a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was warned when he was about to complete the Tabernacle.” The Writer of Hebrews was saying that the Tabernacle, the priesthood, and even the law, were shadows of what is in the heavens. “Jesus is better,” the Writer kept saying. He is better than all you have ever known or imagined. Jesus was the better sacrifice, the better High Priest, the better hope.
How does that relate to the Bridal Shower, you ask? Marriage is a shadow, and some holy imagination is needed to think that something could be better than wedded bliss.
Jesus told us in Matthew 19 that marriage is temporary. When we get to heaven, He says, there would be no more marriage as we know it. Instead, we will be like the angels. I don’t know entirely what that means, but I’m pretty sure it is a good thing. (And frankly, is excessively hopeful for those of us who are, so to speak, living like the angels right now.)
But marriage in this life is still a good thing, even if it is a shadow of what is to come. Genesis 2:18 tells us that God said it was not good for man to be alone. And Proverbs 18:22 tells us that the man who finds a wife finds a good thing, including favor from the Lord. While I don’t know this myself experientially, I trust the Scriptures (and personal observation) that marriage is good on this side of glory.
Sometimes, it seems, we place an expectation on marriage that is not Biblical. Marriage is good, but it is a shadow of something better–a better marriage between Jesus and His Bride, the Church. Here is some of the beauty that the shadows of marriage turn our attention to:
Better Guests: Big wedding or small wedding? Who gets invited? Who gets left out? All who attend the future wedding of the Lamb are blessed. His servants and the ones who fear Him, both small and great will sing together, Hallelujah, because the Lord God, the Almighty reigns! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself.” (Revelation 19:5-7)
Better Reception: Whether we are talking BBQ, brunch, or dessert for the reception, the provision of food and drink at the wedding is a shadow of the invitation extended by Jesus who says, “Both the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ Let anyone who hears, say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who desires take the water of life as a gift.” (Revelation 22.17). We have heard Jesus offer that water before!
Better Bridegroom: Let’s face it. We are all sinners–brides and grooms, and marriage isn’t about to solve any of that sin. Rather, marriage, or so I have been told, brings more sin to light. Ephesians 5 commands husbands to copy Jesus in how they treat their wives since He is the better Groom! Not only did He give Himself for His bride, but Revelation 19:11-16 describes this Bridegroom leading the armies of heaven as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Better Wedding Day: One of my favorite weddings was one where the couple shared how they came to know Jesus with all of their guests. They took time in the ceremony to invite all of their guests to know him. There is, according to Hebrews 8 (and Jeremiah 31), a day is coming where no more will we teach each other saying, “Know the Lord.” But He will remove hearts of stone and write His law on new hearts.
Better Wedding Dress: Better than a pile of lace and tulle with a sign reading, “She said ‘Yes’!,” the better Bride will be “given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:8). Here is where earthly marriage should touch heavenly marriage. As a couple serves and points to Jesus here, they are preparing for the wedding that’s yet to come.
As I have counseled others (and myself) regarding dating and marriage, one thing has been abundantly apparent: A couple should only get married if they can serve Jesus better together than they can serve Him alone.
Marriage isn’t meant to bring identity, meaning, or salvation—the shadow bride and the shadow groom just cannot hold that kind of weight for one another. Only Jesus can provide those things. May His bride live to be like Him and long to be with Him.