The marriage of the Lamb will be one of the most magnificient events in all of human history. It will be the consummation of all the hopes and desires of the Father for His Son. The bride is none other than the New Testament church, which is to become the Lamb's wife. The New Testament church will include those believers from Pentecost (Acts 2) to the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52). The church is described in the New Testament as the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2, 9; 22:17; Eph. 5:25 ff.) as well as a virgin espoused to her husband (2 Cor. 11:2).
Christ is pictured as the bridegroom of the Bride (the church) in the New Testament; whereas, God is portrayed as the husband of His wife (Israel) in the Old Testament (Jer. 31:32; Hos. 2:1-23). Israel in the OT is viewed both as a widow (Lam. 1:1; Isa. 54:4), and as divorced (Jer. 3:8); yet will be restored as Jehovah's wife in the millennial kingdom (Isa. 62:4, 5; 54:4-8). The marriage of the Lamb is a heavenly scene, while passages depicting Israel are presented in an earthly setting. Others, however, believe the Bride is representative of all believers, both of the OT and NT. They do not see in God's program a distinction between Israel and the church.
When will the marriage of the Lamb take place? Between the Rapture and the return of Christ to the earth two events concerning the church will take place; the judgment seat of Christ and the marriage of the Lamb. The Bride is depicted as wearing "fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8). This could only be possible if the church has completed her examination at the judgment seat of Christ. Therefore, the marriage of the Lamb would be prior to the return of Christ in Revelation 19:11-21.
There are many variations concerning wedding customs in Scripture; yet, there seem to be three distinct phases in common with each: (1) the marriage contract or betrothal, which was initiated between the parents of the bride and the representative of the bridegroom. This was usually confirmed by oaths and a gift (dowry) to the bride's family; (2) the marriage ceremony or wedding procession, which involved the bridegroom and his friends. They would come to the bride's home to take her back to the house of the bridegroom or the bridegroom's father; and (3) the marriage supper or feast, which would be at the bridegroom's house or his father's. This was attended by guests of the wedding party. Mounce notes "by analogy, the church, espoused to Christ by faith, now awaits the parousia when the heavenly groom will come for his bride and return to heaven for the marriage feast which lasts throughout eternity."
The bride is dressed "in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8). This is in contrast to the harlot in Revelation 17! The "righteousness of saints" ("righteous acts" - NIV), are the deeds done in this life by the believer which will make up the wedding garment that he will wear when he attends the marriage feast. Charles Ryrie, in his commentary, Revelation, has noted the balance between God's sovereignty ("to her was granted"), and man's responsibility ("hath made herself ready").
W.A. Criswell, in his Expository Sermons on Revelation, believes the Christian will wear two robes, which he relates to the Roman tunic and toga. The tunic or inner garment is that which relates to the positional righteousness imputed to the believer by Christ; whereas, the toga or outer garment refers to the practical righteousness of the believer, which he fashions himself. This outer garment, which will be fashioned from the believer's "good works" (Eph. 2:10), will be the garment of his own making, which he will wear throughout eternity. The outer garment relates to Christ's present work of sanctification with His church (Eph. 5:26), which will result in "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).
Who will be the participants in the marriage supper of the Lamb? The marriage of the Lamb will involve only the Bridegroom and the Bride, which will be Christ and the church. John the Baptist related that he was only a "friend of the bridegroom" (John 3:29). Israel, the Old Testament saints, and Tribulation saints will obviously be guests at the wedding gala, along with myriads of the angelic hosts.
The marriage supper, on the other hand, has several interpretations, which make it difficult to find a desirable solution. As stated earlier, Walvoord believes that the marriage of the Lamb is actually the marriage supper, which will climax the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. He does state that the marriage supper would be held on earth in association with the return of Christ. Most writers distinguish between the two events, placing the supper on earth with reference to Israel, who awaits the return of the bridegroom and bride (see Psalm 45; Matt. 22:1-14; Lk. 14:16-24; Matt. 25:1-13).
Lewis Sperry Chafer distinguishes "between the marriage supper which is in heaven and celebrated before Christ returns, and the marriage feast (Matt. 25:10, R.V.; Luke 12:37) which is on the earth after His return. Some interpret the marriage supper or feast as the millennial age, in which the Jew and Gentiles will be invited to participate. Others, such as Hendriksen, believe that "the feast lasts not one or two weeks but throughout all eternity!"
Whether the marriage supper is in heaven or on earth, and whether the duration is one day, a thousand years, or throughout all eternity, the important thing for us to remember is that we still have time to fashion through "good works" the wedding garment that we will wear in eternity. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).