Marriage: A Beautiful Shadow of a More Excellent and Certain Reality

pexels-photo rings
by Kaity Glick
I wait with eager expectation for my wedding day. The day when my friends and family gather to celebrate with me God’s faithfulness and love through the good gift of marriage.  The day when my future husband and I will enter into a covenant before God that by his grace we will be committed to one another for the rest of our lives. The day that we will begin our marriage and our relationship will become a picture of Christ and his bride the church.  The day for which we have been planning and hoping for months and even years. It will indeed be a joyous day that is worthy of celebrating.

But the joy of my earthly wedding day will pale in comparison to the day Christ returns: the wedding day of Christ and his bride the church. This joy will pale in comparison not because earthly weddings are not rightly to be celebrated as a good gift from the Lord, but because of the surpassing greatness of Christ’s union with his bride. Because on this heavenly wedding day, the church will finally experience what earthly marriage has been pointing to for all this time. Instead of having the picture or shadow of what is to come, we will experience the real thing. We will experience intimacy and union with Christ that is beyond what we could ever hope or imagine. This heavenly wedding day is recorded in Revelation 21:1-7. According to this passage there are two future realities that Christ’s bride has to look forward to: perfect union with God and God doing away with sadness and sin.

We will finally experience perfect union with God. Revelation 21:3 says, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” In the Old Testament, the tabernacle served as a picture of the presence of God (Ex. 40:34). But while the presence of God rested upon the tabernacle that was in the camp of his people, he did not fully dwell among his people. They interacted with God in the way he prescribed through sacrifices mediated by the priests and through Moses, but the people themselves could not enter into God’s presence. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, in the New Testament era, Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them and are able to enter into the presence of God (Matt. 27:51).  But we still do not have God dwelling among us in a physical sense. In Revelation, the presence of God actually dwells among his people in both a physical and a spiritual sense. God’s people will no longer need to approach God through the mediation of a priest, but will instead dwell with Him. We will have perfect union with God both physically and spiritually.

Along with dwelling among his people, God will also “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4a). We will no longer experience the pain and heartache that comes from living in a world that is broken by sin. There will be no more physical pain of injury or disease. No more emotional pain of broken relationships and difficult circumstances. The reason that God will be able to do away with sadness is because he will completely do away with sin. Revelation 21:4b says, “there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” No longer will we fight against a sinful nature. No longer will sin bring about death and pain. No longer will our relationship with God and our relationships with others be torn because of our sin or because of the sins of others. We will live in perfect peace with God and with his people. We will no longer have the ability to do, say, think or feel anything that is displeasing to God. Because there is no sin, we will be able to fully experience union with our creator.

So as I long for my earthly wedding day, I seek to allow this yet unfulfilled longing to point my mind to a higher and more certain reality. Not just the fulfillment that may come if God allows me to marry, but the certain fulfillment that will come when Christ returns and is united fully and perfectly to his bride the church. Beyond the unfulfilled longing of earthly marriage, I should fight for this mindset in the face of any unfulfilled longing on this earth. My ultimate satisfaction will come when Christ returns and I dwell fully with the Lord and experience the end of sin and sadness. This reality is greater and more precious than any good gift God may choose to give on this earth.

Kaity Glick is a graduate of Boyce College and is getting married July 29th.


For more information on relationships and romance, be sure to find Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon’s new books Letters to a Romantic: On Dating and Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement, (P&R, 2017).

 

Before You Jump: Questions About Dating, Engagement, and Breaking Up

by Spencer Harmon
by Spencer Harmon

The turmoil caused by dating still makes my stomach churn.  Man was not made to be alone, and so God created woman so that they could be together (Genesis 2:18).  But it was the in-between phase – the phase where I was trying to figure out who to be together with – that made me queasy.  The restlessness brought by yearning for a companion; the self-inflicted duress fueled by the advice of older married peers; the sheer confusion of figuring out if that person is the person (and how do I know for sure?).

For me, the tension was in maintaining the balance.  How do I balance physical attraction and inward beauty?  How do I balance finding someone who is different enough to complement me and yet also ensuring we are compatible?  How do I balance the encouragement from a couple I respect and also ensure that I’m not dictated by the advice of others?  How do I know for sure?

To add to the confusion, the Bible doesn’t give detailed instructions on how to navigate every nuance of dating.  Although the Bible has much to say about purity, marriage, and relationships, the Bible isn’t a dating guide.  The Bible does not work like your GPS on your phone when it comes to dating.  Instead, the Bible gives us categories that we must think deeply about and apply to our lives.  God has given Christians categories through which we can process our most complex issues – even the issue of whether or not you should marry someone.

Perhaps you are in a relationship, and you feel your stomach churning, too.  You care deeply about the person you are with, but you know how serious marriage is, and the commitment makes your head turn.  What was once an exhilarating  adventure of learning about someone else, has become a tangled knot of responsibility and decision-making.  Now, you are seeking to make the decision of whether you should run into or out of this relationship.  Or maybe your stomach is not churning at all, and you aren’t concerned about running at all.  You are coasting with no direction, and you need to get going.  You need to decide  which direction to run or at least to begin running.  Before you make this decision, consider these three categories:

  1. Foundation: Fear or Faith?

Faith is the beating heart of the Christian.  By it we are brought into the family of God (Romans 3:28), and without it we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).  It is the posture of the heart that has been made right with God, and the lifeblood that animates our lives.

God loves faith, and throughout our life he is always putting us in situations where it must be exercised.  Prayer, suffering, persecution, and leadership are just a few areas God calls his people to practice faith.  When we bleed faith in a hard circumstance we show the world that God is a rock that is a worthy place to build our lives (1 Peter 3:14-16).

As you consider your next steps in your relationship, look down at your feet and examine whether you stand on the rock of faith or the sand of fear.  Remember that fear or faith can motivate you towards or away from a relationship.  You may know that your relationship needs to end, but you won’t end it because you fear what your mutual friends may think.  But instead of fearing man, God would call you to break up by faith – trusting that God will care for your cares and those of your significant other (1 Peter 5:6-8).  Or, you may need to move your relationship towards engagement, but you are paralyzed by the fear of commitment and the unknown terrain of marriage.  But instead of fearing the unknown, God would call you towards engagement by faith – trusting that the promise of his presence with you through the unknown will sustain you (Isaiah 41:10).

Fear kills relationships.  We will never experience full and lasting relationships if they are in the death-grip of fear.  The God who knows all things and orchestrates them for the good of his people is calling you to build your relationship by faith in his goodness.

  1. Vision: Man’s World or God’s World?

Christian couples are pilgrims traveling through Babylon as citizens of the New Jerusalem (Philippians 3:20).  There are obvious dangers to avoid: impurity, idolatry, neglecting community.  These are the sins that derail and end relationships.

But before we discuss the pitfalls along the road, we must ensure we are reading the right map.  The temptation for many of us is far more subtle.  The temptation is to let our vision of dating be informed by man’s world rather than God’s world.  This is significant because our vision of dating creates our expectations for dating.  If our expectations are informed by a system in rebellion against God (1 John 5:19), our relationships will be stained with upside-down values – prioritizing short-term, second rate things that will leave you bitter, disappointed, and impossible to please.

As you consider whether or not you should move forward, ask yourself this question: are my thoughts and concerns about our future informed and motivated by God’s Word of man’s world?  Perhaps you value the way her body looks more than you value the inward person of her heart (Proverbs 31:30); perhaps you care more about his charisma than his character (1 Peter 3:7); perhaps you care more about pleasing the person in front of you rather the the Person who is always with you (Isaiah 2:22).  These are the disproportionate values are of Babylon – the world in rebellion against God.  Is your mind being transformed from these values or conformed to these values?

The most radical thing a Christian couple can do for one another is to prioritize the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) rather than the fruits of the serpent.  Consider which fruit your heart is cultivating before you take the next step.

  1. Expectation: Comparison or Contentment?

Comparison is poison that will eventually affect every part of your relationship.  This poison will infuse your relationship with unrealistic expectations for your significant other, and will cloud your thinking from seeing them for who they really are.  Comparison has an utopian expectation for relationships that God never promised in a fallen world, and it compels us to run when we should stay.

The problem with comparison is that it will never have enough.  Even if you were to end your relationship because you believe there may be something better, you won’t find it.  If you are seeking to find heaven with your spouse, you are trying to find the voice in an echo, the ocean in a stream, the city in a signpost.

Comparison ultimately dishonors God by limiting God’s creativity to your own box of preferences.  God’s creation of your significant other is unique, and not meant to be limited by our sinful expectations.  Our expectations must be expanded by a breathe of God’s fresh air from his Word.  Experience God’s creative pleasure in letting contentment inform your relationships.  God intends for you to experience joy in your significant other through the differences, and sanctifying you through living with another person in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7).  But you will only experience those differences by growing in your contentment in who God has made others to be, and not giving advice to God in who he should have made your future spouse to be.

Growth Through the Churning

Believe it or not, the churning in your stomach is a vehicle of growth.  God means to grow you through all different types of trials (James 1:2-4).  God also grows us through taking a step of trust in him even when we don’t feel it, but are acting in faith (James 1:25).  Check your foundation, adjust your vision, and inform your expectations, and make your move in faith.  And know that God promises his presence with you, through this decision, and every other one after that.

Letter To A Young Engaged Man: The Marriage Bed

Dear Young Engaged Man,

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes sex.

I am frustrated by most churches who neglect this topic and do the body of Christ great harm. Simultaneously, I am frustrated with other churches who are explicit with sex and talk about it in very unhelpful ways; nevertheless, Jesus wants Christians to think biblically about this topic.  Many things could be said here but I want to focus on the attitude that should shape the way we view sex.

The gospel has no bounds and is not privy to categories of “public” or “private.” Jesus is the God of the living room and of the bed room. God will not let you be selfish in any area, including your most intimate endeavors. Our sex drive should be selfless. Your pleasure must be rooted in God and in bringing your spouse pleasure.

On your wedding night and then every night after, your mind should be that of Christ Jesus, who, although being in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:5-7). Before lying down in bed with your wife, you must be willing to lay your life down for her.  We need the grace of Jesus to do this.

The Christian must not do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. The marriage bed must remain undefiled by lust and selfishness.  This is why only Christians can have truly satisfying sex. Only the Christian couple can find their delight in selfless service. It is only the Christian husband or wife who can satisfy both their body and heart in the marriage bed.

Remember to love your neighbor as yourself, especially the one who will sleep next to you. Settle it in your heart now to make your marital bliss complete by being selfless. Purpose to do whatever you do, whether you eat, drink, or have sex, to do it all for the glory of God.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: A Wedding is a Community Event

Dear Young Engaged Man,

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

As my wedding approached, the amount of generosity my friends and family showed my wife and I was overwhelming.  You would not believe some of the stories: A couple of my friends came over one evening to cook for me while another friend feverishly moved my fiancées possessions into our future home; other friends poured out the love of Christ by addressing wedding invitations, wrapping party favors, and compiling power points; parents shopped for us, planned for us, and provided for us all along the way. Every hole was patched and every loose end was tied by the love and affection of our neighbors. I cannot tell you of all the instances of kindness we experienced.

The climax of this relentless hospitality was during the few days before the ceremony.  Over and over again the words “what can I do next?” graciously found their way to us.  Some did not even ask because they had already thought of projects to tackle.

A wedding is truly a community event. Our brothers and sisters washed our feet with joyful smiles and reflected a deep love for Christ and His bride.

What is hospitality?  Jeff Dalrymple often summarizes hospitality as anticipating the needs of others. This is an excellent definition. Anticipating the needs of others and joyfully meeting them for the glory of Christ.  What separates secular hospitality from Christian hospitality? Genuine joy.  Our wedding party exhibited a deep fountain in Jesus which overflowed into the basins where they placed our feet. Our family had their finger on our pulses to continually check our needs and meet them.  Their example is a letter about hospitality that continues to be circulated.

May we emulate them as they emulate Christ.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: The Weighty Thrill

Dear Young Engaged Man,

When the time comes for you to stand before your bride and say your vows, a mix of emotions will flood your soul. The exchange of vows is a weighty thrill.  You are thrilled by your deep love for her and the weight of your promise is sobering.  The line in your vows that perhaps carries the most weight is “Till death do us part.”  Not many couples realize the significance of this short phrase.

If you say this phrase, you will be committing to never leave nor forsake your bride until the day you breathe your last. You will be committing to be a one woman man until you behold Jesus face to face.

Be warned. The promise is not “Till adultery do us part.” Nor is it “Till abandonment do us part.”

I am convinced that the Bible teaches believers should not divorce under any circumstances. We can discuss that later if you like, but even if you disagree, I plead with you to discard any “parachute cord” from your marriage. Remove from your mind all reasons for divorce and live as Christ does with his bride. Irrevocably committed.

Christ will never leave nor forsake his bride, even when we commit adultery against him.  Christ will never abandon his wife, even when we abandon our first love.  The vows are weighty and before a holy God.  Our “yes” must be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. Heath Lambert helped me realize the seriousness of the wedding vows. He has pointed out that if you are going to hold to legitimate exceptions for divorce in your marriage, then you must include them in your vows or completely leave off the phrase “Till death do us part.” You can’t have your exception and eat it too.

Ephesians chapter five calls us to love our wife as Jesus loves us. Make a fundamental commitment to never separate what God joins together. (Mark 10:9)  God calls you to be a Hosea even if you marry a Gomer.

I am praying for you as you prepare for the weighty thrill of covenanting together with your bride.  May your marriage oaths be true until either you or the heavens and earth pass away.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To a Young Engaged Man: One Day Closer

Dear Young Engaged Man,You are one day closer to marriage and you are one day closer to the return of Jesus.There is a link between these two things: Just as you long to be with your bride in an unhindered and unrestrained way, you should long to be with your Savior free from sin and unrestrained by the flesh.  Just as you have waited all these years for your wedding day and life together, I pray you have waited all of these years to behold the face of Jesus and spend eternity together.  Your bride is going to walk down the aisle to meet you – the one who loves her and has longed for her.  Jesus is going to descend from the sky to meet those who have loved him and awaited his return.

Many times at the beginning of engagement people asked me, “What day are you thinking about getting married?” I would respond “tomorrow” or “yesterday.” I assume you are like me and can hardly wait.  Towards the end of engagement people have cheerfully asked, “Are you excited?”
This question became wonderfully foolish because the answer was so obvious. I assume the same will be for you.

Brother, I do not say this to be overly spiritual or to sound puritan. The only thing more exciting than the upcoming wedding day is the return of Jesus.  I say that because Jesus has been kind to my heart and I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. His steadfast love is better than marriage.

Now you might be tempted to think, “If Jesus comes back before I am married, then will I have missed out?” Or you might be tempted to feel depressed that you did not get to experience the joy, friendship, or intimacy of marriage.  Take heart. “Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.” (This Momentary Marriage, pg. 15)  Or to think of it visually, we would never trade a person for a photo.

Marriage is simply a picture of the person and work of Jesus Christ; marriage is only a mirror that reflects the relationship of Jesus and His bride; marriage is merely a good gift to glorify a satisfying God.  Enjoy marriage, but only as it submits the the supreme pleasure of knowing God.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but soon we shall see face to face.

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: Love Her Invisible Pearls

Here is my guess:  she struggles with insecurity about her physical beauty and you struggle with dwelling too much on her physical beauty.  She doesn’t think her outward appearance is enough and you have thought about it enough.

How do you help her realize she has value and how do you balance out your thoughts to think purely?

  1. Remind her that she is beautiful because she is made in the image of God. 
    Before brushing over this, we must let this reality sink in. God does not make trash. If you scoff at his art, you insult him. This truth is not just a nice saying to make unattractive people feel better about themselves. God says he created man in his image and this reality is not to become trite in our minds. There is a real, holy, stunning level in which your fiancee is unwaveringly beautiful because she reflects God. Even if she is marred by third degree burns or ransacked by acne, this reality does not move. Every day her image pours forth speech of the handiwork of God. Christ has made a personal claim regarding the incredible crafting of his creation.
  2. Remind yourself of the hidden image of God made possible in Christ. 
    It is good to tell your fiancee that she is pretty, but do not miss out on the thrill of praising her hidden person. Physical appearance is fleeting but there is an imperishable beauty that only gets better. If she is growing in faith, fearlessness, gentleness, holy submission, and compassion, make it a point to praise these ornaments. The fruit of the Spirit has a sweetness that will never sour. Dwell on her godly character and attach your heart to it!  Ask the Lord to give you eyes to behold true beauty. Beg him to give you grace to truly appreciate the grace he has given her. Make it top priority to value, treasure, and be drawn to her godly character. Her inner heart is a gorgeous glimpse of God.

Outward beauty is wonderfully fleeting. As she gets older, every wrinkle will help accent the eternal radiance found in her heart. And the best kept secret is, the more you cultivate an attraction for her godly character, it is likely the more fruit she will produce.  Do not miss out on enjoying the realities that will never perish.

Remember, remind her that she is made in the image of God and then encourage her to continue looking more like Christ in godly character.

Look hard and love her invisible pearls. They are formed perfectly by the oyster of the gospel.

Until then,

Sean