Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Picture-Perfect Bride

By Ron Bartanen

    INTRODUCTION: Recently read an article by a lady who had been paralyzed by an accident but was to be married. At the church friends were helping her into her wedding gown, readying her for the ceremony. As she wrote about it, “They heaved and shifted my paralyzed body this way and that, trying to fit me into my wedding gown, but when I sat back in my wheelchair I groaned. In the mirror I looked like a float in the Rose Parade.” As wheeled out, the bouquet fell from her lap. Then she saw that the hem of her gown had a greasy tire mark. staining it. Her chair: “A big clunky thing with belts and ball bearings. “I was not the picture-perfect bride.” Then she saw her husband-to-be craning his neck, looking for her. She wrote, “My face grew hot, and my heart began to pound. “Suddenly my wheelchair and clumpy dress with its smudges didn’t matter. I couldn’t wait to get to the front to be with him. I may have looked unlovely, but the love on Ken’s face washed it away. I was the pure and picture-perfect bride.”
    When I read her description of her situation as she was about to be married, I thought this to be a good modern-day “parable” of the church, the bride of Christ. This lady was not, at first, a “picture-perfect bride,” by her own acknowledgement when she looked into the mirror. She was paralyzed, unable to help herself, and dressed in a stained wedding gown, which she considered to be not a pretty site to see. But then she sees her husband-to-be craning his head to see her as she’s being pushed in her chair down the aisle, and, seeing his face, realizes the love she sees on his face despite her appearance. It is then that she realizes that by his love, her “unlovely” appearance has been washed away, and she had become the “picture-perfect” bride.” What a contrast between the time prior to her seeing the bridegroom before and when she sees him. It is when she sees Ken that all that was “unlovely” was “washed away” and she is now a “picture-perfect bride”.
   Let us look first into the “mirror” of the word of God to how we are in the flesh. All are soiled with the stain and corruption of the world. The word affirms that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) Paul certainly did not exclude himself from this fact, even stating, “I know that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing, for to will is ever present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:19). Even the holiest of God’s saints come short of perfect alliance with the will of God. Our best efforts still fall short. Our own personal “righteousnesses” are declared by His word to be as “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). The bride of Christ, the church, will not enter the eternal kingdom of God and the “marriage supper of the Lamb” with “filthy rags.” In fact, “flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
   But those composing the church, His bride, at the resurrection will be in His eyes the picture-perfect bride. How will that be? I believe Paul explains that in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53: “Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep (the sleep of death of the body) but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, this corruptible (body) must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." Spiritually those who are saved have been redeemed (1 Peter 1:19), but the redemption of our bodies awaits the return of Christ (Romans 8:23), at which time we will be seen of Him as His pure, “picture-perfect bride.” Revelation describes this bride, saying, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. Then He said to me, Write, for these are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9.”At the return of Christ our bodies will no longer be as our bodies are now, but changed to be worthy to enter God’s presence. Paul makes it clear concerning our righteousness at that time will be through Christ, the truly righteous One, who will impart righteousness to us through His sacrifice of Himself on His bride’s behalf, saying, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Christ, our righteousness, was sacrificed for us.
    As Jesus prepared His disciples for His crucifixion and departure to heaven, He spoke as a Jew would understand Him. At that time a potential bridegroom would pay a dowry to the potential bride’s father for permission to marry his daughter—in a sense, purchasing her. They would go through the procedure of betrothal, at which time the bridegroom would tell his bride that he would leave her for a time in order to prepare a place for them to live after they were formally married. The disciples, as Jews, would probably recognize this as Jesus said to them, In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-4). As His hope-filled bride, we are to be readying ourselves for His return for us, every day ready for His coming. A betrothed bride would anxiously await the return of her beloved husband, not knowing the day nor hour he would return. She would be faithful to their commitment. She would probably keep herself and her clothing clean, ready to depart as soon as he would appear. Each day, especially as the days lengthened into weeks, months or even a year or so, she would not lose faith in his promise, but would keep herself daily, prepared to be taken to her future dwelling, finally united with her husband. As the bride of Christ, are we looking more for the undertaker who will put us under the ground, or the uppertaker who will take us to His heavenly mansion? As conditions on earth worsen and get farther and farther from God, our hope is not to die, but to be rescued from a fallen world by our heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. It is depressing to look to dying, but a matter of joy to anticipate what lies beyond this life for the bride of Christ. We will truly then be the “picture-perfect bride.” 1 John 3:3 reminds us, “Everyone who has this hope purifies himself even as he is pure.” He shares His purity with us. As believers, we seek J maintain purity as we follow Him. John wrote, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). With this assurance, we can pray in the words of John as he concluded the book of Revelation, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Until that day, “the Spirit and the bride say, Come. Let him that heareth say, Come. And let him who is athirst come and take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22;17). With faith in Christ all are invited to repent of sin and identify with Christ in His death, and resurrection, “Being buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was” raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” Romans 6:4). Be awake and ready. “The Bridegroom cometh.” (Matthew 25:6)

- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. After the passing of his beloved wife, Doris, Ron has relocated from Illinois to Florida where he is near family. He may be contacted at:

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