Towards the end of the Book of Revelation John uses the imagery of a wedding feast to describe our salvation in its final form, which is appropriate considering how the marriage process is used throughout the New Testament to depict the Church’s relationship to Jesus. To better understand this imagery inspiring the New Testament writers, I read up a bit on first century Jewish wedding customs.
To keep it simple, the first century Jewish wedding was made up of three stages. The first stage of the marriage process was the Contract, where the bride and groom agree to marry by signing a contract along with the bride’s father; while they are now technically married, first the groom has up to seven years to raise the dowry money to pay the bride’s father and prepare a place for them to live. Once he finally pays that money, they can begin the second stage of Consummation when the groom arrives at the bride’s father’s house where the bride and her bridesmaids are waiting; they enter the house and consummate the marriage while everyone’s outside waiting. When they’re finished, they’re considered one. Thus begins the third stage of Celebration when the groom takes his bride and guests to the place he has prepared to celebrate the wedding feast.
If we apply these three marriage stages to the Church’s relationship to Jesus, the Contract stage could be seen in our baptisms, when we commit our lives to being the Body/Bride with whom Christ will unite himself. The second stage of Consummation is something of an already but not yet situation. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has essentially satisfied the required dowry allowing us to enter into union with Christ; yet, like Jesus’ Matthew 25 parable, we still wait for Christ’s arrival to escort us to his prepared place for the third stage of Celebration, culminating in the wedding feast of the Lamb. So how are we, the Church, to wait?
Anticipating that great wedding feast, Jesus told his disciples at the last supper “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”
According to Paul, Jesus also said “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
If we look carefully, Communion touches on all three of these stages. Our access to Communion is borne out of our Contract commitment to Christ; our contemplation of Communion creates gratitude for the Consummating blood of Christ; the church’s togetherness in Communion anticipates the Great Wedding Celebration of Christ. Communion is the Church’s Matthew 25 oil that keeps our lamps lit as we await Christ’s arrival.
Next time you take Communion, remember the wedding celebration you and your spouse shared together, or a wedding celebration you attended. Take those joyful memories and apply them to the Communion moment, so that it may display the joy of union with Christ which Communion is designed to celebrate.