Recently, I was delighted to learn that one of my friends is engaged. My friend and her fiancé have dated long-distance for a year, and they will remain apart until they marry next summer.
Not many people can relate to the agony they feel in separation or the longing they have for their wedding day. Yet when I look at their lives, I’m struck by how profoundly their long-distance engagement illustrates what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Mysterious Metaphor
In the Bible, marriage is often revealed as a symbol of Christ’s relationship with the church. Collectively, believers are depicted as the bride of Christ.
The apostle Paul calls this a “profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32) that God has modeled marriage as a micro-story of His love for people. It’s this mystery that explains why Christian marriage is so baffling to the world. “Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” husbands are to sacrificially care for their wives — even to the point of death. And just as the church follows Christ, wives are to submit to the loving leadership of their husbands. (Ephesians 5:21-30)
All of this is beautiful, but my friend isn’t married yet. How does this couple’s story line up with the story of humanity?
Already Betrothed, But Not Yet Married
Marriage is a symbol of the gospel, but it’s also a foreshadowing of eternity — which means the wedding between Christ and the church hasn’t happened yet.
Until Jesus returns a second time, we are betrothed to Christ. This is no ordinary engagement with no ordinary end — Hosea 2 says we are betrothed “in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy,” and Revelation 19 predicts a heavenly wedding reception that will put Pinterest to shame.
But the wedding day hasn’t arrived. We know and love Jesus, but there’s a depth to His presence we haven’t experienced on earth. And this is exactly where my friend’s story parallels ours.
She knows and cherishes her fiancé deeply, and she has the sweet assurance of betrothal. But more than anything, she yearns for the day the distance between them will be broken.
Can you imagine how wonderful their wedding will be? I can’t help smiling as I picture it. After so much pain, their tears will turn from sorrow to joy.
In the same way, Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes on the ultimate wedding day. Our hearts will burst in sheer ecstasy on the occasion that ushers in eternity. And we will finally understand that the joy of knowing Jesus on earth was absolutely nothing compared to being in His presence.
An Earth-Shattering Proposal
This magnificent, eternal marriage is the destiny of all believers. The proposal is extended to everyone, but the wedding is only for those who accept it.
Christ’s proposal is untraditional and undeserved. He didn’t buy you a diamond ring — no, he offers you something far better. He bought you eternal life, and He paid for it with His.
And what is eternal life? The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the future in words we can fully understand. The what, where, when, and how will be a bit fuzzy until it arrives, except for one important detail: Jesus will be there.
“This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
When my friend gets married, she’ll be trading every fragment of familiarity for a new city, a new job, and new friends. Her future is largely uncertain, but she’s embracing it. The details don’t matter, really. What matters is that she will be with her husband.
How much truer this hope is for those who believe in Christ, for those who are betrothed to the God who pursued them at their darkest, for those who accept his proposal.
With all our hearts, we look forward to the day when we will finally be united with the One we love, the One who first loved us.