The Marriage Supper
Growing up my family had a painting on our dining room wall of the Marriage Supper. It was a celestial picture of a long dining table with high-backed chairs, golden silverware, and fine table linens. The end of the table couldn’t be seen. It looked something like the previous page.
The painting was meant to be a rendition of the Marriage Supper found in Revelation 19:6-9,
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
The Marriage Supper is not some drawn-out wedding feast. We won’t get up from this meal and say, “Wow… that was really good food and wine. Now what do we do for the next ten million years?” This meal isn’t something that happens just once. Rather it is a metaphor for the presence of God: “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Rev. 21:3). New Testament scholar Robert Thomas says this of the Marriage Supper:
“The better part of wisdom is to include both the Millennium and the new heaven and the new earth as the prolonged wedding feast of the Lamb and His bride (cf. 19:9). It will commence with Christ’s glorious appearance to initiate His kingdom on this present earth… So the initiation of the union happens in heaven, but the celebration of that union with a grand wedding feast ensues on earth for the span of the millennial and eternal kingdoms.”
The coming kingdom of heaven is described as a meal with Jesus! Divine inspiration tells us that heaven is like a grand wedding feast, filled with joyous relief and celebration for eternity. Why? Because face-to-face fellowship and enjoyment with God in the new heavens and new earth have commenced! The Old Testament Aaronic blessing, “May God make His face to shine upon you” (Num. 6:25) has finally come to pass in all of its fullness.
That’s why heaven is great. Not because all of your suppressed sinful passions are now satisfied, but because you have no sinful passions…only passion for Christ, which compounds and increases over years and years. And which is satisfied…like the best meal you have ever had.
The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared…
Consider with me one aspect of the nature of the kingdom of God. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son…”
Thank the Lord that the kingdom is compared to a wedding feast and not a funeral. The kingdom is not lame and morose; it is not joyless and depressing. No, it’s like a wedding—a joyous occasion. (Even if you don’t like to dance, there is usually cake!)
This comparison of weddings and the kingdom is not an isolated metaphor. If you go back to Matthew 9, you come to the story of Matthew, the tax collector. After his encounter with Jesus, he invited all his friends to dine with Jesus: “Many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus” (9:10). Christ is eating and associating with sinners. Here again, Jesus is with many folks of questionable character. The Pharisees ask why he dines with these people. To this, Jesus replies, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” This is the reason He came: to heal the spiritually sick, to restore them to fellowship with God.
Later on, the disciples of John came and asked, “Why doesn’t Jesus fast?” Jesus basically compares His coming to a wedding feast, just like in chapter 22. He essentially says that “it’s perfectly appropriate for Jesus and His disciples to feast now instead of fast.” This was because the party had begun with Christ’s coming. The Kingdom of God had arrived in the Person of Jesus. Pop the cork.
In the words of New Testament scholar D.A. Carson, this miracle was “the dawning of Messianic joy.” Christ’s first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding party. It was the inauguration of the Kingdom. It was like a little foretaste of the Marriage Supper. And here’s the deal: it’s appropriate to be joyful and to celebrate around Christ. In fact, that’s the right thing to do.
As we will soon see, the Lord’s Supper is also a foreshadowing of the Kingdom, a foretaste of the Marriage Supper. The Lord’s Supper anticipates the coming Kingdom.
Foreshadowing the Kingdom
Matthew starts off his gospel describing Jesus as one who would “save His people from their sins.” So when Jesus compares the kingdom to a wedding feast, this is more than just a random illustration. Eating around a table with sinners pointed to heaven. It foreshadowed the future Kingdom. Jesus Himself described heaven as a meal: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt. 8:11)
The Kingdom of God is compared to a Great Banquet. And the Lord’s Supper prompts us to think about the Kingdom and our future fellowship with God. The Supper leads us to intimate fellowship with Christ, which is by far the greatest privilege in the world.
A Meal of Celebration
If the Lord’s Supper foreshadows the Kingdom and the marriage supper, which is a celebration, then how does that affect the way we observe the Lord’s Supper now?
The Supper should be a time of joy, celebrating what Christ has done for us. It is certainly a time to solemnly consider the great cost of our salvation as we will examine later. It’s a time to acknowledge and repent of sins too. But it’s also a time to celebrate the closeness we now have to God through Christ.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King. If you are in Christ, that thought should thrill you! One day we will be with Him and dwell with Him and His Law will be written on our hearts and there will be no more tension, no more sin, no more sadness, no more curse.
That day is coming. But in the meantime, we wait, and we wait over a meal. And we recall that “in [His] presence there is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). We say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25). And we remind ourselves that the greatest thing in the world is knowing Christ, fellowshipping with Christ, enjoying Christ, and exalting Christ. And all of those things happen in a special way over a meal.
Wayne Grudem aptly noted,
“The Old Testament sacrificial meals continually pointed to the fact that sins were not yet paid for, because the sacrifices in them were repeated year after year. (Heb. 10:1-4) The Lord’s Supper, however, reminds us that Jesus’ payment for our sins has already been accomplished, so we now eat in the Lord’s presence with great rejoicing.” Great rejoicing indeed. He has invited us to draw near. What a blessing! “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).
A Life-Shaping Meal
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus established that a particular meal should characterize and define his followers, a meal that would symbolize restoration and fellowship. They were to have this meal as often as they gathered. It was a commandment, as we have already seen. And this meal would be a meal of celebration, among other things. The Lord’s Supper would actively cultivate in His Church, a culture of joy. It would reflect the coming kingdom. This means believers gather around the table of celebration. We drink a cup of thanksgiving, we come together and eat a meal with Jesus and each other, and we worship the King. That’s a happy thing. That’s a celebration.
This meal and all it stands for should infiltrate our entire church. One of the many reasons the Lord’s Supper is important for a church, is because it shapes the culture of the Lord’s people. The Supper shapes us. Not only that, the Supper is a proclamation of the Good News to the world!
When we come together around the Lord’s table, let us come with joy. Let us come anticipating what He has in store for us in the coming Kingdom. And let us come with reverence for who He is. Remember, we are in the presence of the Lord. He is, after all, not only the Guest of Honor at this meal, He’s the Host.