There may be serious differences in the understanding of His promised coming. To one it is plain as day that He is coming very soon in person to reign on earth, and that imminent coming is his hope and his stay. To another, who loves his Bible and his Savior just as much, the coming can mean nothing but the Judgment Day – the solemn transition from time to eternity, the close of history on earth, the beginning of heaven; and the thought of that manifestation of his Savior’s glory is his joy and his strength. It is Jesus, Jesus coming again, Jesus taking us to Himself, Jesus adored as Lord of all, that is important; He is the sum and the center of the whole church’s hope.
It is by abiding in Christ the Glorified One that the believer can fully anticipate, in true spiritual longing, His coming, which alone brings true blessing to the soul. There is an interest in the study of the end times, and such schools sadly are often better known by their contentions about opinions and condemnation of believers who do not agree with them than by the meekness of Christ’s character. It is only the humility that is willing to learn from those who may have other gifts and deeper revelations of the truth than we, the love that always speaks gently and tenderly of those who do not see as we do, and the heavenly character that shows that the Coming One is indeed already our life, that will persuade either the church or the world that our faith is not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
To testify of the Savior as the Coming One, we must be abiding in and bearing His image as the Glorified One. Not the correctness of the views we hold, nor the earnestness with which we advocate them, will prepare us for meeting Him, but only our abiding in Him. Only then can our manifestation in glory with Him be what it is meant to be: a transfiguration, a breaking out and shining forth of the indwelling glory that only awaited the day of revelation.
~by Andrew Murray in Abiding In Christ (pp 188-190)
Last year ABC News reported the story of a Pennsylvania woman named Abby Curtis who was married in her great-great grandmother’s 1895 wedding gown. The lacy Victorian dress hadn’t been properly cleaned in more than a century, and when Abby tried it on she didn’t think it would do. But a local designer came to the rescue, working more than 200 hours to restore the dress and fit it perfectly. Abby became the eleventh bride to wear it. “Who would have thought that a dress 120 years later could still be worn by a bride?” said Abby’s mother. “It’s a magical dress.”1
Few brides glide down the aisle in such timeworn garb; but in keeping with the old rhyme, most take something old along for the ride. Often it’s a piece of her mother’s jewelry or an ancestor’s handkerchief. Some brides attach a small photograph of a loved one, no longer living, to their bouquet. One bride wore the scent of her grandmother’s perfume.
It’s not a matter of superstition, but of continuity. Weddings are moments symbolizing both the past and the future, like links in a chain. On one side stands a cloud of forebears; on the other, a potential line of descendants. That’s why weddings are evocative occasions when family memories are precious and family traditions cherished.
The Creation of Marriage
The oldest thing in a wedding, however, is marriage itself. When a couple joins their hearts, it’s in keeping with an ordinance extending all the way to the beginning of human history, back to the Garden of Eden. When we start reading the Bible, we don’t get out of the second chapter of Genesis before witnessing the first marriage in history: God made a woman, “and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh….’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24).
Throughout the Old Testament, the sanctity of marriage is upheld; and when Jesus began His ministry, He performed His first miracle at a wedding (John 2:1-12). Near the end of His ministry, Jesus was challenged about His view of marriage. He said, “From the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8).
The book of Hebrews declares, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). Marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, an exclusive relationship in which intimacy is wonderfully appropriate.
This view wasn’t invented by human government, by the Jewish nation, or by the Christian church. God created it before any of those institutions came into being. If God defined the terms of marriage at the beginning of creation, no subsequent human agency has the authority to amend it. It’s as old as Eden, as authoritative as God’s Word.
The Corruption of Marriage
Our modern society has, by and large, rejected God’s view of marriage, and we’re paying the price. Cultural pundits, political leaders, and judicial figures usurp God’s authority whenever they reformulate the terms of marriage. When a culture rejects the authority of an eternal God, it feels it can redefine marriage however it wants. Most Western nations now recognize same-sex marriage, and many nations in Africa accept child marriage. Polygamy in its various forms is legal in parts of Asia and Africa, and it’s likely one of the next legal battlefields in Western nations. Some recent social pundits have raised the issue of group marriage, and you can even find articles popping up on the Internet about self-marriage and human-animal marriage. The sexual revolution of the 1970s produced the concept of “open marriage,” in which the partners agree that each is free to engage in extramarital sex without regarding it as infidelity.
Millions of couples skip marriage altogether. In 1960, the Atlantic reported that approximately 450,000 couples in America were living together outside of marriage. In 2015, the New York Times reported the number had shot to more than seven million. That’s a 900 percent increase in the last fifty years.2
None of these premises are valid in the sight of God. As I said, human governments didn’t invent marriage; therefore they cannot redefine it. It was God’s idea in the beginning, and He alone claims the authority for prescribing its terms. Alternative views of marriage corrupt God’s plans for the human race. As an old wedding ceremony says, “Marriage was ordained by God at the beginning of history as the foundation of home life and social order, and it must remain so until the end of time.”
The Celebration of Marriage
The best way for Christians to defend and honor God’s plan for marriage is to demonstrate its benefits for the world. God planned marriage as He did for several reasons.
First, it’s the best environment for raising children. Malachi 2:15 says, “You were united to your wife by the Lord. In God’s wise plan, when you married, the two of you became one person in His sight. And what does He want? Godly children from your union. Therefore, guard your passions! Keep faith with the wife of your youth” (The Living Bible).
Second, God created marriage as the proper environment for sexual intimacy. That’s the theme of Song of Solomon, as the king and the Shulamite girl explored the joys of married love. Pleasure is a valid, God-given reason for enjoying sex within a covenant marriage relationship between one man and one woman. That’s God’s design. The apostle Paul wrote about this saying, “Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.… Do not deprive one another…” (1 Corinthians 7:2-5). God created us with powerful sexual urges to guarantee the continuity of the human race, but we must channel our desires in godly ways as He has directed.
Third, marriage is God’s way of joining our hearts with another for the sake of testimony and ministry. In the New Testament, Priscilla and Aquila took in the apostle Paul and helped him support himself. They took the great orator Apollos aside and explained to him more perfectly the Gospel. They worked together in leading a church that met in their home. As we read about them in the books of Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Timothy, we come away with a picture of a marriage dedicated to ministry.
The best way to protect and preserve biblical marriage is to celebrate it, to personify it, and to show the world God’s wonderful plan as He designed it. He created Adam and Eve with this plan in mind, and His ideas about marriage aren’t old-fashioned. They are as ancient as humanity, as modern as today, and as enduring as the human race.
Let me end by quoting from the marriage ceremony found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The language is a bit dated, but the concepts are more crucial now than ever:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honorable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and His Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with His presence, and first miracle that He wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honorable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
God ordained marriage for a good cause—for our blessing and benefit. Let’s plan to live according to His plan, and let’s determine to build our homes according to His good purposes.
~by David Jeremiah
1“How This Bride Restored Her 120-Year-Old Family Heirloom Wedding Dress,” ABC News, abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/bride-restored-120-year-family-heirloom-wedding-dress/story?id=34640207.
This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional, May 2016.