I have been inspired by recently reading over Revelation 20-22 and particular themes that come out in this critically important final chapter of Scripture. And one of the things that has been amazing me is John’s revelation of the bride of Christ. To some the subject might not be new but it’s always worth remembering that for John a lot of this stuff would have been a brand-new way of seeing things. In particular I would imagine that the angelic invitation in 21:9 would have been a striking moment in itself. The angel says, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
Why would this have been striking? Because the bride is the wife of the Lamb. Not just anybody! Throughout the book there has been a significant revelation of Jesus as the Lamb of heaven. At the beginning He was seen to be the only one worthy to take the book that was in the hand of the Father and to break its seals to release the unfolding events of the last days. No one else in heaven or earth was worthy. He is revealed as the most unique, wonderful and praiseworthy being in all of history and creation.
And then, John discovers that this Lamb is to have a wife. Now, for such a one to have a wife must say something hugely significant about her also. Suddenly, statements about excellent wives and the like from Proverbs and other places seem a whole lot more meaningful. This is the one who the Lamb has been waiting for! She must be incredible.
Which is where we should begin to be surprised because, if you know anything about the bride of Christ, without doubt the term refers to the church. And you look at the rabble that we see as church today, and you wonder that the Lord would be so delighted over us! And yet He is.
I noticed something exciting too when I continued to read about the heavenly Jerusalem that is the bride of Christ. It says that there are twelve foundation stones to the city, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (21:14). Where does this bride spring from? It springs from the source of His followers, right from the days of the first twelve who gave their lives to follow Him. From that group that came to be known as the church. It is founded right back there when Jesus chose twelve to follow Him. This confirms for us the idea that the bride which is the city is the church.
But furthermore we can actually see Jesus actively sowing the seeds for this heavenly city-bride which comes to earth, way back in the Gospels. Because when John sees the bride, he sees
the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… (21:10).
It comes from heaven to earth – this city founded on the twelve apostles. What did Jesus teach His followers to pray? “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) Without doubt His purpose from the beginning then was to raise up a people to become His bride who could see this ultimate goal accomplished, of heaven coming to earth, and He won them by buying their heavenly seat from which to operate in this task (Ephesians 2:6)
One last note about the new heavens and the new earth. There are two words for the word ‘new’ in the Greek – and this is currently second-hand information and I’m no Greek expert so I can’t tell you what they are. But I do know for sure that one of them is new in the sense of: scrap the old one, throw it in the bin: we’re getting a new one! And the other word is meant to convey the sense of something that has been re-newed. Taking something that has gotten a bit bad, and freshening it up. This is the word that is always used in the New Testament with reference to the new heavens and new earth. Even in 2 Peter 3 when everything is (literally) ‘dissolved’ (3:11) the new heavens and earth referred to there (3:13) are re-newed. Because sometimes you need to use a really strong cleaning agent to dissolve all the muck that has accumulated on your once-nice possession!
And Revelation 21:5 spells this out in beautiful and famed words: “Behold, I am making all things new.” And what I love is that to then really back this up, He goes on to say, “These words are faithful and true…. It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (21:5-6) It is as sure as He is faithful and true, and is the beginning and the end. As sure as ‘it is done’ – or perhaps, ‘it is finished’ – and the work of the cross 2000 years ago.
And what I especially love is that His very next phrase is an invitation to drink: “I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” (21:6) It is amazing how often in Scripture God’s answer to a problem or method to a particular plan involves bringing water in some form, be it rain, floods, a drink…because we need the Spirit! If we want to see this renewing outworked in our lives on our patch of earth, it is done only by the Spirit. He is wrapped up in the whole ‘newness’ of God that is released in the New Covenant; in fact the Spirit is inseparable from the New Covenant. Come to Jesus and you’ll pretty quickly discover that He’s eager to give you His Spirit so you can live in heaven’s life to the full, rather than being stuck on earth having to cope by your own strength.
And together they join their voices at the end:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” (Revelation 22:17)