Reflections on the Church as a Bride

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, June 12, 2005

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. Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God (REV 19:2, 21:9-10).

The Church as a bride

How can a city be "adorned as a bride?"

What is beautiful about a bride? What makes her seem so special? Her wedding gown?

Why is the wedding gown so special? Because the bride chooses it with such care.

A young woman may think about and plan for her wedding dress for many years. Once she decides on the design it may take many weeks to actually make the dress.

The wedding dress is something very special even if it is only a simple dress, because it becomes a symbol of the marriage itself.

Garments represent truth

A borrowed state; the wedding dress shows how she wants to be seen, the future, angelic, regenerated state that we all hope for.

But does a city wear a wedding gown?

Of course not. But the people in a city can plan for a special event. Think about what happens when a city wants to make a hero feel welcome. They make the city especially clean. They put new paint on the walls. They repair anything that is broken. They polish all the metal. They hang out lights and special decorations. The people of a city work very hard to prepare their home for a special occasion.

The Bridal dress is the doctrine of the church – how it is seen in the mind

This how the angels prepared the heavenly city the New Jerusalem to welcome the Lord, and it was so beautiful, the light sparkled from it so, that when John saw it he thought of a beautiful bride who had taken great care to prepare for the coming of her husband.

The Church is like a nation: it stands for many people

We use the word "church" in many ways.

In one sense it means everyone in the whole world who tries to do what they believe to be right, because they will love to learn about the Lord when they die, and so will be welcome in heaven.

In another sense "the church" is just those people who have learned about the Lord and His laws by reading the Scriptures, and who do the best they can to follow God’s laws.

Another way of thinking about it is to think about the church as all those people in the whole world who belong to this particular church, the New Church. Or even only those who belong to the Washington Society.

But the Lord also teaches that each and every one of us is a "church" when we have the two essentials of the Lord’s true church, that is, when we know about the Lord Jesus Christ, and live according to His commandments.

What is true for the church as a whole is also true for each of us individually.

So, if every one of us is a church in one sense, then we can see that everything that applies to the church also has to do with us.

That means that if the Holy City prepared and made itself ready to meet the Lord, that this is something that we too must do.

The Lord wants to be with us. We must get ready to receive Him.

We must prepare ourselves like a city about to welcome a hero or host a parade:

We need to look carefully for what is broken or dirty or disorderly.

We need to clean up the dirt, repair the broken, remove what does not belong. We need to look to our own lives and bring them into heavenly order.

We need to put on a wedding garment, a picture of the mind we wish to create by acquiring truths from the Word.

Then when the Lord comes, we will be able to greet Him with honor, for we will be suitably prepared.

The Parable of the Wedding Garment as read in the first lesson

King arranged a marriage for his son

He prepared a rich and wonderful feast

But the invited guests would not come

Some just made excuses, but some even beat and killed the kings servants, so the king sent his armies to destroy them and their cities.

As Jesus told it, it was an allegory of the Jewish Church

They were so full of themselves that they were not hungry for His gifts

The Lord builds the church for our benefit

To assist us in finding our way to heaven

And yet there are those who are too stupid to take the hand that would save them

So all those in the highways were invited instead

The Gentiles who were hated by the Jews

The poor who were hated by the rich

Those who were hungry for good and truth but had not yet found it.

Even though they were poor, they all cleaned themselves and prepared

Except one man who came without preparing, and he was thrown out of the wedding feast.

This may seem strange at first, as we wonder how he could have been expected to have a wedding garment with him while traveling – but that is not the issue. None of the poor had wedding garments per se, but they did make an attempt to make what they did have clean and presentable.

No one of us has all the truth, for that is what a special wedding garment represents. But we can make the attempt to examine ourselves and weed out what is false before presenting ourselves before the Lord.

If we take care of the truths and falsities, and compel ourselves to live according to what we believe to be true from the Word, then the Lord will take care of our will, removing the longing for evil and replacing it with the opposite desire for what is good.

The man was rejected because he attempted to enter heaven without self-examination, repentance, or reformation, so that Lord was unable to regenerate him. Thus, he could not live among the blessed and was thrown out (or threw himself out).

Everyone is invited to the feast

Everyone is also obligated to make himself ready

As it says in Rev. 19:7, "His wife has made herself ready.

The Lord doesn’t make the church ready,

The church – the people in the church – initiates and decides to get ready.

The power to change is the Lord’s, but the decision, the freedom to do so, is in our own hands.

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 it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’" (REV 19:7-9) Amen.


First Lesson: MAT 22:1-11

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: {2} "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, {3} "and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. {4} "Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."’ {5} "But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. {6} "And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. {7} "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. {8} "Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. {9} ‘Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ {10} "So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. {11} "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. Amen.

Second Lesson: TCR 787, 790, 791 (port.)

787. This New Church is the crown of all the churches that have hitherto existed on the earth, because it is to Worship one visible God in whom is the invisible like the soul in the body. Thus, and not otherwise, is a conjunction of God with man possible because man is natural, and therefore thinks naturally, and conjunction must exist in his thought, and thus in his love’s affection, and this is the case when he thinks of God as a Man.

Conjunction With an invisible God is like a conjunction of the eye’s vision with the expanse of the universe, the limits of which are invisible; it is also like vision in mid-ocean, which reaches out into the air and upon the sea, and is lost.

Conjunction with a visible God, on the other hand, is like beholding a man in the air or on the sea spreading forth his hands and inviting to his arms. For all conjunction of God with man must be also a reciprocal conjunction of man with God; and no such reciprocation is possible except with a visible God.

That before the assumption of the Human, God was not visible, the Lord Himself also teaches in John:— Ye have neither heard the voice of the Father at any time, nor seen His form (v. 37).

That there is a conjunction with the invisible God through the visible, that is, through the Lord, He teaches in the following passage:— In that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in Me and I in you (John xiv. 20).

790. What this church is to be is fully described in the Apocalypse, where the end of the former church and the beginning of the new are treated of. This New Church is described by the New Jerusalem, by its magnificence, and by its being the future bride and wife of the Lamb (xix. 7; xxi 2, 9).

791. NOTE. — After this work was finished the Lord called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world; and the next day He sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages, according to the prediction in Daniel (vii 13, 14), and in the Apocalypse (XI. 15). Also that blessed are those that come to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Apoc. xix. 9). This took place on the nineteenth day of June, 1770. Amen.