The Return of Jesus (with Bride)

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ."

(2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

From Ray Stedman: Here, at last, heaven breaks into praise and rejoicing over the judgment of Mystery Babylon the Great, the harlot church which claimed to be the queen, the true wife of the Lamb of God. She is destroyed by God himself just before the appearance of Christ. Now this great chorus comes to a crescendo to announce the true bride of Christ.

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
  Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
  For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
  Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear."
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:6-8 NIV)

We have now come to the wedding of the Lamb, where he claims his Bride for himself. We will see this bride again in Chapters 21 and 22, under the figure of a great city which is called "the bride, the wife of the Lamb." It is here, however, that the wedding of Jesus and his bride takes place. Most of the commentators identify the bride as the church, because the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5 says that "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless," (Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV). Though the term "bride" is not employed there it seems to be descriptive of our Lord's bridegroom relationship with the church...

In Chapters 21 and 22, when the new Jerusalem, the Holy City, comes down from God out of heaven, "prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Revelation 21:2 NIV), and labeled the "bride of the Lamb," it will have twelve gates named for the twelve tribes of Israel and twelve foundations named for the twelve apostles. So there is a blending of Old Testament and New Testament saints in the bride of the Lamb.

When it says in Verse 7 that the "bride has made herself ready," this seems to infer that the judgment seat of Christ is now over. There are passages in Paul's letters where he speaks of this judgment seat. In Second Corinthians 5:10 he says, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad," (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV). This is a time of evaluation. It is not to settle destiny but to determine the degree of reward. It is a time when our service for the Lord during these days on earth is evaluated, and we are shown what was done in reliance on the Spirit and what was done in the energy of the flesh. According to the apostle, those deeds done for self-glorification or in the energy of the flesh for selfish purposes are all "burned with fire," and all that is left are the "righteous deeds of the saints." That is what we have here. We are told "fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear," and, "the fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints." So here the bride has made herself ready by means of the judgment seat of Christ. Even her righteous deeds are washed in the blood of the Lamb so that the garments she wears are bright and clean white linen. The importance of this occasion is seen in Verses 9 and 10:

Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

...It is a great honor to be invited to this wedding feast. That invitation is the gospel which goes out to all men and women everywhere, in every age, inviting them to the wedding feast of the Lamb to be part of the bride of Christ. This links with the parable told by our Lord in Matthew 22. A great king, said Jesus, made a wedding banquet for his son. He sent invitations out to certain ones but they refused to come. This seems to refer to the nation Israel. When Jesus presented himself to the nation at the Triumphal Entry, riding down the Mount of Olives on a donkey as Zechariah had predicted, ["Behold your king comes unto you, meek and lowly, and riding on a donkey," (Zechariah 9:9)] the people received him but the leadership of the nation rejected him and thus refused to come into the banquet hall. Then the king sent his messengers out into all the highways and byways, and he appealed to anyone, good or bad, to come to the wedding feast, (Matthew 22:2-14). When many came he gave them wedding garments that they might be suitably clothed for the feast. This is clearly a picture of the great event we have before us here.

The Spirit of God has been calling men and women throughout the Christian centuries, and before that in Old Testament times, and now even through the tribulation period, inviting them to come and join this wonderful scene of the wedding supper of the Lamb. What a privilege it will be to see the great Bridegroom himself, and to be a part of his beloved bride, to share in the intimacy of fellowship with the Lord Jesus! Each individual member of that bride will be able to feel that the Lord himself is their peculiar possession. I often think of the words of Samuel Rutherford, that great Scottish saint who wrote in the 17th century,

The Bride eyes not her garments,
But her dear Bridegroom's face.
And I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of Grace.
Not at the crown he giveth,
But on his pierced hands,
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel's land.

It is almost impossible to describe adequately the beauty of this scene and to make it real to our hearts. What a wonderful, blessed thing it is to be invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! So incredible is it that the angel adds, "These are the true words of God." John is so moved by this that he falls down to worship the angel and is immediately rebuked. The angel says, "No, do not do that. I am merely another servant of the King. I am like you, one of those who bear the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!" And how do you do that? The very spirit of prophecy itself tells us how, for the angel adds, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." All prophecy points only to Jesus. It is not designed to give us a calendar of the last days, though some read it like that. No, the spirit, the essence, of prophecy is to bear witness to Jesus. He is the central figure of all Scripture. It is not events which we are to focus on, but the One who brings them to pass, the Lord Jesus himself. Thus we are instructed here by the angel to focus our attention upon him.

In Verses 11-16 we come to the great climax of all history. This is the once far-off divine event toward which all human events since the beginning of time have moved -- the unveiling of the presence of Jesus in power and great glory. It is the most prophesied event in the Bible. Three different times in this book, at the end of each of the series of judgments -- the opening of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls of wrath -- we have been brought to the very edge of this event, and each time the Spirit of Truth has brought us back again to see in more intensified form what God is doing in the world of that day. But now at last we come to the event itself.

This is what Paul calls, in Second Thessalonians, "the splendor of his coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8 NIV), or literally, in the actual Greek, "the outshining of his presence." Jesus came as a thief for his church at the beginning of the last week. He took them away unexpectedly, suddenly, as a thief takes treasure out of a house. Since then he has been, as we have seen, invisibly present with the church behind the scenes throughout the whole seven-year tribulation period, directing its events. From time to time the book has shown him to us -- meeting with the 144,000 on Mount Zion and directing various activities that take place upon the earth. But now his invisible presence is made visible, as he himself described it in the great Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:

"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30 NIV)

The first chapter of Revelation also refers to that,

Behold, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him. (Revelation 1:7 NIV)

Now we read of this actual coming in Verse 11 and following:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns [diadems]. He has a name written on him that no one but he himself knows. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.

The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16 NIV)

This is not the Lone Ranger on Silver, though that fiction may be based on this theme. This Rider on a White Horse is identified for us by four different names: The first is found in Verse 11: There he is called "Faithful and True." It is in that capacity that he comes "to judge and to make war" but all in perfect justice. There are just causes for the correction of evil and the punishment of evildoers despite the campaign against capital punishment today. Our Lord comes to execute perfect justice in judging and making war. At last, as Scripture has long promised, all the wrongs done on earth will be made right; all the cheats and scams that we are familiar with today will be exposed and corrected; all drugs that blow the minds of people will be eliminated; all crime will be brought to an end; all hatred among mankind will cease, for Jesus comes to judge the earth and to right all matters.

Another name is found in Verse 12: "His eyes are like blazing fire and on his head are many crowns, and he has a name written on him that no one knows but himself." That unknown name is linked to the blazing eyes and the many diadems on his head. "Blazing eyes" speak of full discernment, penetrating knowledge. "Many diadems" speak of full authority. The two together picture omniscience and omnipotence, but each vested in a man. That is the point of this text. The wonder of Jesus is that it is as man that he manifests all the fullness of God, for he is both God and man. His name, his unknown name, reveals that. What this suggests is that no one knows the full extent of that mysterious union of God and man. All that is meant by that marvelous revelation, that there is vested in a man the full authority, power, omniscience and omnipotence of God, is something that no one fully knows. We shall be discovering new aspects of that throughout eternity. That is why heaven seems to be constantly breaking out with new praises and new wonders at what our Lord is like.

In Verse 13 there is still another name: "He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God." That Word of God is associated with the robe dipped in blood and with the armies of heaven following him, as well as with the sharp sword that comes out of his mouth. Some commentators refer to the "robe dipped in blood" as descriptive of the cross, of the sacrifice of Jesus. I do not take it that way. I think it refers to a remarkable dialogue found in the 63rd chapter of Isaiah, a dialog between the prophet and the Warrior-Messiah. As Isaiah is shown the coming of Christ, it is as though he is standing in Jerusalem looking toward the south, toward Edom, and he sees a great warrior coming with garments stained red. He asks the question:

  Who is this coming from Edom,
    from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson?
  Who is this, robed in splendor,
    striding forward in the greatness of his strength? (Isaiah 63:1a NIV)

The warrior answers,

  "It is I, speaking in righteousness,
    mighty to save." (Isaiah 63:1b NIB)

The prophet asks again:

  Why are your garments red,
    like those of one treading the winepress? (Isaiah 63:2 NIV)

The warrior replies,

  "I have trodden the winepress alone;
    from the nations no one was with me.
  I trampled them in my anger
    and trod them down in my wrath;
  their blood spattered my garments,
    and I stained all my clothing.
  For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
    and the year of my redemption has come." (Isaiah 63:3-4 NIV)

The sharp sword which the prophet sees here in the mouth of Jesus is the Word of God. In the opening vision of this book John saw the Lord Jesus with a double-edged sword proceeding out of his mouth. It is a symbol, of course, of the power of the Word, and here it portrays power to smite the nations -- to destroy them if necessary.

Have you ever been smitten by the Word of God? Some of us have had that experience. Some word from the Bible has caught our attention and awakened our conscience, and we are suddenly aware that God sees deeper into us than we thought he ever could. We become aware of how guilty we are. On the day of Pentecost the Jews who were listening to Peter's great message, at the end "were cut to the heart," (Acts 2:37 NIV). They were smitten by the Word of God. I think also of that scene in Acts when Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit. When Peter, speaking by the Spirit, exposed their lies, they both dropped dead instantly. So, here, there are those who will be killed by the sword which comes from the Lord's mouth.

Accompanying our Lord are armies of saints and angels. The book of Jude quotes Enoch, the prophet, as saying, "I saw the Lord coming with tens of thousands of his saints," (Jude 1:14 KJV). We have already seen in 17:14 the promise that "his called, chosen, and faithful followers," will accompany him when he comes. This describes the church returning with the Lord when he appears in glory. But also armies of angels will accompany him. Several passages speak of the hosts of angels, the multiplied millions, who will return with the Lord. They too will be using the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Verse 16 gives us the rider's fourth name: "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." This is linked with his ruling with an iron scepter. When our Lord comes he will rule over the nations. First he will destroy their evil ones, and then he will rule over the rest. The word "rule" is really "shepherd" -- "He will shepherd the nations with a rod, or a staff, of iron." You will recognize these words taken from Psalm 2. For the third time in Revelation there is reference to the promise of this Psalm:

  "I will set my king upon my holy hill of Zion (Psalm 2:6 KJV)

  "You will rule them with an iron scepter,
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery." (Psalm 2:8b NIV)

That "rod of iron" is a symbol of tough justice, of unbending, unwavering righteousness. It is the standard of God's morality which he cannot lessen or diminish in any way. This is descriptive of the millennial years when righteousness will reign in all the earth. There will be sin and sinners present, but they cannot upset things; their evil will be immediately brought to justice. This characterizes that millennial day. The effect of our Lord's appearance upon the antichristian enemies we have been observing is given in Verses 17 on. Here we will learn what is meant by the phrase "he treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty." First, there is a call to a great slaughter.

I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great." (Revelation 19:17-18 NIV)

This is another description of the great campaign that is called the Battle of Armageddon. We have already seen that 200,000,000 soldiers from all the armies of the earth will gather into the land of Palestine. There are other descriptions of this in the prophets. Ezekiel 38 and 39 describe it in detail. Also, Joel 2, Daniel 11 and Isaiah 24 give us the development of this as the king of the north comes down into the land and is met by the king of the south, i.e., the armies of Egypt, coming against Israel. The conflict is settled only by the sudden destruction which comes from the appearance of Jesus himself. The fate of these antichristian powers is given in these closing verses from 19 on:

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. (Revelation 19:19-21 NIV)

It is almost incredible, is it not, that when Jesus reveals himself, and every eye sees him, that these leaders of the nations actually attempt to assault and attack the Lord himself: "They gather to make war against the Lord and his armies." But it is an unequal contest. The beast and the prophet are immediately captured and thrown into the lake of fire, which in Chapters 21 and 22 is called "the second death." It is a terrible symbol of eternal torment, a fire, an inward torment that burns on and on and never ends.

And the rest, we are told, are killed by the Word of God -- not by a physical weapon but by the simple word spoken. When our Lord was in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:2-6), as the soldiers approached him, he asked them, "Who is it you want?" They said, "Jesus of Nazareth." The Lord said, "I am he," literally, "I AM". It is recorded that they all fell backwards to the ground at that word. That is the power of the word. Our Lord could have walked out of the garden a free man had he chosen to do so. But he gave himself into their hands. He sacrificed himself, through the eternal Spirit. So, here, when he comes, one word from his lips takes care of the enemies of God. Martin Luther's great hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, has a line that says that when the Lord confronts the devil, "one little word shall fell him."

We have not yet seen the fate of the great dragon, Satan, this arch enemy of God who has for centuries afflicted and tormented the peoples of earth. There is an unfortunate chapter break at this point for actually the account goes right on to tell us what happens next. We will see Satan bound and the millennial kingdom set up. All comes as an immediate result of the appearance of the Lord Jesus. But we will take this up in our next study. I remind you again, as we come to the close of this message, that the essential purpose of prophecy is to testify of Jesus. He is the central figure of all life. We hear many religious ideas being spread abroad today. From Eastern religions to New Age philosophy to the cults, all of them are claiming to tell us how the universe is set up, how life properly operates, and what to do in order to relate to whatever God there may be. But the test of all such faiths, and the question that every individual on earth has to answer, is, "What do you do with Jesus? What place in your religious view is there for Jesus?" Because he was here. The record of his life is unassailable. He came, he lived, he taught, he died, he rose again. All this has been established with unanswerable evidence. It is a fact. Therefore, any faith that offers to help man must deal with that fact. How does Jesus fit into your scheme? This is the question the Bible confronts us with. Jesus is the great issue of life. All life finds meaning only in him, and all hope for this broken world flows from the fact of his coming again into the world. --Ray Stedman, The Rider on the White Horse

Who is the Bride of Christ?

The Rapture of the Church will probably not be a big deal for the Left Behind. But there will be plenty of Rapture Shock for those caught up. When Jesus Christ steps back into our space-time domain, some followers of Jesus will be living on earth in their old bodies, but the “dead in Christ” will be raised first. Then those followers of Christ who are now alive will join them. This is a vast number of men, women, children from the First Century to now. The number could easily number 10 billion men, women, boys and girls. They will come from every tribe and nation. Everyone will arrive at the same “time” (according to earth time.) Each will have his or her new resurrection body. The article If the Rapture Happened Today is a quick look at this crisis. The total population of the world is about 7900 million persons and only 5% are Americans! This will pose major problems for the raptured followers of Jesus -- for 2000 years of history, that is--we'll have to all get along together in a city.

What would the “faithful remnant” of Christians in America actually experience today if Jesus came for us in the Rapture today? We who were former prostitutes (of one kind or another) will need to be revirginized so we qualify to be part of the virgin Bride of Christ. We'll have to adjust to living in community with hundreds of millions of followers of Christ who have different cultural values than us, but men, women, and kids who know and love our Lord Jesus. We'll be living in a great orbiting city together!

The concept of the marriage supper is better understood in light of the wedding customs in the time of Christ.

These wedding customs had three major parts. First, a marriage contract was signed by the parents of the bride and the bridegroom, and the parents of the bridegroom or the bridegroom himself would pay a dowry to the bride or her parents. This began what was called the betrothal period—what we would today call the engagement. This period was the one Joseph and Mary were in when she was found to be with child (Matthew 1:18); (Luke 2:5).

The second step in the process usually occurred a year later, when the bridegroom, accompanied by his male friends, went to the house of the bride at midnight, creating a torchlight parade through the streets. The bride would know in advance this was going to take place, and so she would be ready with her maidens, and they would all join the parade and end up at the bridegroom’s home. This custom is the basis of the parable of the ten virgins in (Matthew 25:1–13). The third phase was the marriage supper itself, which might go on for days, as illustrated by the wedding at Cana in (John 2:1–2Z).

What John’s vision in Revelation pictures is the wedding feast of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and His bride (the Church) in its third phase. The implication is that the first two phases have already taken place. The first phase was completed on earth when each individual believer placed his or her faith in Christ as Savior. The dowry paid to the bridegroom’s parent (God the Father) would be the blood of Christ shed on the Bride’s behalf. The Church on earth today, then, is “betrothed” to Christ, and, like the wise virgins in the parable, all believers should be watching and waiting for the appearance of the Bridegroom (the rapture). The second phase symbolizes the rapture of the Church, when Christ comes to claim His bride and take her to the Father’s house. The marriage supper then follows as the third and final step. It is our view that the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place in heaven between the rapture and the second coming (during the tribulation on earth).

Attending the wedding feast will be not only the Church as the Bride of Christ, but others as well. The “others” include the Old Testament saints—they will not have been resurrected yet, but their souls/spirits will be in heaven with us. As the angel told John to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). The marriage supper of the Lamb is a glorious celebration of all who are in Christ! (from

Although I have never married I do have a high view of marriage, partly because I have met a few extraordinary married couples in my short life. The Song of Solomon has been a favorite book of mine for more than fifty years. The lives of Adam and Eve, before and after their trouble, informs me greatly about who I am as one of Christ’s eunuchs. When I look at my old chart on fallen masculinity and fallen fallen feminity, I can see both categories describe my inner person. People used to tell me I wasn't complete without a wife. I know way better now. Jesus hasn't married yet!

I am especially intrigued lately by the New Testament imagery of the true church as the virgin bride of Christ. According to the Bible, man and woman are alike in spirit, but not in soul and body. (For this reason the term "man" or "brothers" is often generic in the Bible when doctrinal teaching is in mind). The physical, anatomical differences between the sexes are well known. However man and woman are also quite different as far as the soul is concerned. More on this later.

Traditional marriage as an institution has declined greatly in the past half-century. In admitting us to heaven Jesus sends assurance that:

We are each a whole new creation entirely!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-5)

"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)"

I have personally been helped by a Christian view of Yin, Yang, the Tao and Wholeness as seen in Chinese Taoism.

See also It Takes Three to Tango.

Your email is welcome.

Supplemental Reading

A Wedding Invitation from Jesus
The Ultimate Wedding
Jewish Wedding Traditions Compared
High King Jesus
Little Children
The Management of the Universe
The Revirginized Bride

The One Hundred Forty Four Thousand

The End of Sex
Little Children
On Lepers and Virgins
Jesus is a Single Man
Wachet Auf (Wake Up)
The Two Churches
Yin, Yang, the Tao, and Wholeness
The Fall of Man

The Queen of Sheba and Solomon
Psalm 45: The Wedding Psalm
The Wife of Jehovah, The Bride of Christ
A Glorious Church
The Bema Seat
The Great Harlot It Takes Three to Tango
The Excluded Ones
The "I Am god" Problem

November 16, 2020

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