Revelation 21:1-8 pictures the greatest wedding of all time — God’s wedding. It takes place in the capital city of the new earth. I use this passage when officiating weddings because the bride and groom need a sober vision for marriage and experienced guests often need a hopeful vision.
Beautiful weddings are a sensual experience, touching all five senses. God’s wedding will be no different.
- See: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and…I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (21:1) Is there anything more beautiful than a bride on her wedding day? Not from the groom’s perspective! The groom busts with joyful anticipation as he gazes upon her beauty. She has adorned herself for him — not the groomsmen, nor even the guests. God looks at His bride with the same delighted anticipation. He gazes at the most beautiful bride in the world — sinners transformed by love and grace.
- Hear: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.” (21.3) Finally, the Father grants the bride (Christians) and groom (Jesus) intimate access to each other. During engagement boundaries exist. The bride is allowed to enjoy messages from God, walks with God and even visits from God. But on the wedding day, the Father will loudly proclaim that the bride may finally dwell with Jesus forever. Their access to each other will be full and forever. What a pleasant sounding proclamation.
- Touch: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (21.4) On this broken earth we shed lonely, painful tears. But in heaven, there will be no more sad tears. Wedding day tears will replace them. Precious tears will well up from gazing upon our beloved because we will realize we don’t deserve any of what we’re receiving. In heaven, Jesus will pull our face close to His and gently wipe away every tear that leaks with the joy of laughter.
- Taste: “It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of water of life without payment.” (21:6) Life in this lonely and harsh world leaves us thirsting for more. In heaven, our thirst will be satisfied with the best God has to offer — the spring of life. Even better, we will receive it without paying! Like a wedding, we will feast for free because someone else has already paid for the banquet. He who sits on the throne will say, “It is done.” Everything has been taken care of. God himself has paid the bill! Only an eternal and infinite God could afford such extravagance. He will lavish it upon Jesus, and His bride — a wedding gift that’s merely the deposit of a bigger inheritance.
- Smell: “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (21:8) Burning sulfur is the worst smell — outranking dead bodies, sewer gas and wet dog. John reserves the last of the five senses to describe hell — the great divorce from God. When officiating weddings, it is tempting to skip this verse. But skipping would make my description of marriage unbelievable, especially in the ears of experienced people. Verse eight keeps it real. The list of sins span the gamut, but they have one thing in common — covenant breaking (cowards, faithless people, the sexually immoral, etc). People mock the idea of hell for the same reason newlyweds mock the idea of divorce. They think they’re too good for it. Their love is too strong. They refuse to entertain the possibility that their marriage could one day become a living hell. But when tested in life, people are more than capable of turning the heaven of their wedding day into a living hell.
Because we are sinners our marriage has the seeds of hell within it. But in Christ our marriage will also have the seeds of heaven in it. Your marriage will increasingly look like heaven or hell over the passing years! Let the mere scent of hell (covenant breaking) snap you awake like smelling salts and turn you back to your spouse in humility and love.
Hope for marriage comes as we recognize Jesus’ perseverance to endure hell for His bride and offer heaven in return. As you embrace your eternal spouse, Jesus Christ, you will be able to absorb the hell your earthly spouse sometimes drags you into and offer them heaven in return. It will feel like death, but as you carry your cross, Jesus will raise you to a new, heavenly love for your spouse. Then the gates of hell will come crashing down in your marriage as you grant forgiveness, offer compassion, speak encouragement and serve patiently.