Most people regard the Bible as an ancient book of tribal or primitive legends, having little importance for anyone except anthropologists. Would you believe me if I told you that the Bible contains predictions of now-near future events which could have been taken right out of the movie Independence Day? I discovered in the book of Revelation the prediction of an extra-terrestrial starship due to land on Earth in a few more years. (No, I have never been to Roswell, or been abducted by aliens, or seen a flying saucer.)
One day in late 1999 I began my Bible reading in Revelation chapter 19. Verse 7 of chapter 19 is the verse upon which most Christians base the idea that the Church is the bride of Christ:
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him (God), for the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) is come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
As a man, being labeled a bride has always angered me and disgusted me, to put it in printable terms. My immediate reaction was anger (as usual regarding this topic), quickly followed by the urge to read it carefully this time to see if I had missed something.
Remember the setting of this verse: Revelation is a prophetic vision of the last years of human history before the return of Jesus the Messiah. This verse describes part of the very end of the seven-year “Great Tribulation” period, which is filled with lethal man-made and natural events, and occurs just before the predicted return of Jesus to Jerusalem to set up His thousand-year Earth Kingdom. Many nations will have sent military forces to Jerusalem by this time, and these forces will attack Jesus when He arrives.
When Jesus returns to Earth, the “Beast” (the AntiChrist) and the “False Prophet” (the Beast’s religious leader/assistant) will be thrown into the “Lake of Fire”, and Satan will be imprisoned for the entire thousand years in a place called “the Abyss”. This is the end of Satan’s power over the earth. This moment is therefore one of wild, tumultuous joy in Heaven, which is described in verses 1 through 9.
Verses 1 through 9 are an interruption, a celebration of the release of the earth and all its inhabitants from the power of Satan and the demons, and – AND…..a joyous ANTICIPATION of another event that will not occur for another thousand years: the marriage of the Lamb! (“The Lamb” is the title given to Jesus in this part of the Bible.)
Immediately after verse 9 we go back to the narrative of the thousand-year kingdom of Jesus, which comes before the marriage of the Lamb. It is not until chapter 21, verses 9 and 10, that we return abruptly to the marriage of the Lamb. And that is where we find the truth about the REAL bride of Christ:
“One of the angels who had the seven bowls full of the last plagues came and said to me, ‘COME, I WILL SHOW YOU THE BRIDE, THE LAMB’S WIFE. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and SHOWED ME THE GREAT CITY, THE HOLY JERUSALEM, DESCENDING OUT OF HEAVEN FROM GOD.” There follows a detailed description of this “city” which lasts for another 22 verses. There is no indication anywhere that any person or group of people is “the bride”. There is only the obvious, plain statement that the “bride” of the Lamb is the city which comes down out of the sky!
Because the Bible separates the anticipation and the event by more than a chapter, Christians have lost their train of thought on this subject and have MADE AN ASSUMPTION! They have assumed that, since the last Christians of history have just reached Heaven at the time of the event (“marriage of the Lamb”), Christians must BE the event! It is also logical to ASSUME that a marriage involves two people. But the book of Revelation is a book full of symbolism and UNIQUE EVENTS which have never happened before in all of history. Nothing can be taken for granted here unless it is obvious and certain. The plain statement is that the bride of Christ is “the holy Jerusalem” which comes down from the sky.
Does this begin to make sense? Do you see in your mind’s eye scenes from the movie “Independence Day”? THIS “CITY FROM THE SKY” IS A STARSHIP! And IT HAS A NAME, just like “the Starship Enterprise” or “the U.S.S. HALSEY” or any human vehicle that is important to someone.
Go to the nearest marina. How many boats do you see without a name? In World War Two, pilots named their aircraft. American frontiersmen used to name a particularly accurate rifle. This phenomenon arises from people’s lives being intimately bound up with these objects, in some cases even dependent on them. Why should we be surprised that Jesus has named His Starship when the Bible says that humans are “made in the image of God”? Should we not expect that, being “made in His image”, we would exhibit what might be called “genetic similarities”, including behavior patterns?
There are other places in the Bible that use the marriage metaphor concerning people, but it is obvious from the context that it is only a figure of speech. For instance, in Hosea 2:19, God says that He will “betroth” Israel to Himself forever, but in chapter 11, verses 1 and 10, He also calls Israel “My son”, and in chapter 1, verse 10, He says they shall be called “the sons of the Living God”.
In Isaiah chapter 54, verse 5, all English translations I have read say, “Your Creator is your husband”, BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT THE HEBREW TEXT SAYS! In Hebrew, the word translated “husband” is “baal”. This was a generic name for the pagan idols of the region. The Israelites were heavily involved with those religions at the time this was written. God was saying, ”I am your God, not these pieces of wood and stone!” In chapter 62, verse 5, God says “thy SONS shall marry thee” and He also compares Himself to a bridegroom. In the famous 23rd Psalm, David says that the Lord is his shepherd, but I wouldn’t advise you to call David a sheep to his face. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves, so be as wise as serpents, but as gentle as doves.” Ignoring for the moment the fact that serpents aren’t wise and doves aren’t always gentle, this is certainly the ultimate example of a mixed metaphor. No Christian believes that he is expected to grow wool or feathers or be as ignorant as a snake. We understand these things to be figures of speech, and the context of these instructions tells us that they are only figures of speech. Sometimes we’re not so sure, and then it’s time for caution and serious Bible study.
Remember that Jesus Himself said that in the next world, those who are resurrected “do not marry, nor are they given in marriage…they are the children of God.” (Luke 20:34-36) Remember also there are very few verses which compare any nation or group of people to a bride or wife. There are, however, many verses that STATE that Israelites and Christians are or will be sons, daughters, or children of God. For example: 1st John 3:1, John 1:12, Romans 8:14-17, 2nd Corinthians 6:18, Galatians 3:26 and 4:5-7, Philippians 2:15, and Hebrews 2:11.
I have no idea why the landing of the Starship “Holy Jerusalem” on Earth is described as a marriage. My best guess is that it indicates that some kind of cybernetic interface will be established between the Lord and the Starship, such as science fiction authors have been writing about for years. I have no idea why this would be necessary or why it hasn’t already taken place. I would like to emphasize that this only a guess. But I’m no longer guessing about the identity of the Lamb’s bride.
This leads me to an interesting speculation. The Bible teaches in many places that a Christian’s salvation is free, a gift from his or her loving Heavenly Father. However, the Bible teaches that Christians earn their rewards. I wonder if we are earning our own starships!
And this leads me to another speculation. In the book of Genesis, at the beginning of Earth’s history, God put Adam and Eve into the Garden of Eden and instructed them to be governors over Earth. In the next life, will believers in Jesus be given starships and told to proceed to certain planets and be governors over them? Why not? The Bible does say that believers will judge angels. (1st Corinthians 6:3)
I have recently been planning my next vehicle purchase – I’m trying to decide which truck has enough power for me. I want something that is unstoppable by anything less than two feet of snow or water, something that will laugh at loads of less than two tons. I have been comparing Ford F250s, Ford commercial trucks, Dodge Rams, the new Toyota Tundra, Triton V8s, diesels with 500 foot/pounds of torque…. I’m starting to hyperventilate just thinking about it.
What if there is a STARSHIP waiting for me? YEEEHAA! I CAN’T WAIT!
This leads to a highly motivating thought: if I am earning my starship, will I be flying a Warp-9 cyberbeast out of “Star Trek: the Next Generation”, or a rusted-out spacejunk relic that the lowliest space bum would sneer at? Hmmm…..maybe I’d better take being a Christian more seriously….
I can’t decide what to name mine. I’m torn between Louie Louie and Thunder Lizard…..