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The Return of the Bride-Groom

joyful4.jpg

This post is part 3 in my series about Marriage and the Church, in the light of Jewish marriage customs.  This is the next installment of the interpretation of the analogy which I wrote about recently, (The Beauty and Significance of Jewish Marriage Customs).  If we look at these Jewish customs in the light of Jesus Christ and His Bride then we will begin to see, not only the beauty of the analogy, but also the bearing this has on us as Christ’s Bride, the Church….

 

Preparing A Place

In the analogy the young man leaves his betrothed to go and prepare a place for her in his father’s house.  Just as the young man is busy preparing for his bride a place, so too our Betrothed has not forgotten His bride and is busy preparing for us a place.

Jesus had said to His disciples concerning His return: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,f but only the Father….Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:36-42

 

The Father’s Consent

When the time comes and the father gives permission to his son to collect his bride, the young man takes three days to prepare before he begins his journey to go and collect his bride.  As John and Helen Gardiner write in “Wow! So that’s how Jesus loves me!”:

We know that one day is as a thousand years to the Lord.  And just as with working out the three days of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we know that the Jewish method of measuring days is different to ours.  So, we are on the brink of the third millennium, the third day.  Yes the third day is almost upon us.  Our bridegroom has been preparing Himself for three days.  He is fully prepared and fully expectant, longing to be with His Bride…”

jewish bride 

The Bride….Waiting

Meanwhile the bride has been patiently awaiting her groom’s return, not knowing when it will be, but knowing that he will keep his promise to her. Because she is uncertain of the date and time she must keep watching.

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night…But you, brethren, are not in darkness so that this Day should overtake you as a thief…Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober..” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6

Jesus will return for His Bride, just as he has promised.  So the picture of the young man returning to collect his bride, is a picture of the Rapture of the Church.

 

 

The Fetching of the Bride

Just as the young man brings his friends and escorts with him to collect his bride, so too will Jesus Christ return for His bride with His holy angels in the Rapture of His Church.

Matthew 24:31 says:

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Jesus’ arrival will also be preceded by a loud shout and the blowing of a trumpet (shofar) to alert His Bride that He is on His way:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. ” 1 Thessalonians 4:16

“…For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:52

 

As Arnold Fruchtenbaum puts it so clearly in “Fruit from the Frucht” here’s what will happen:

“1. the Messiah will come from Heaven into the earth’s atmosphere and He will enter into the realm of the home of the Bride.

2. He will then give a shout.  The Greek word used means “a military command”.  Thus, He will issue the command as a military general does for the process to begin.

3. The third step will be the voice of the archangel.  Michael the archangel is pictured here as the sub-commander, who will repeat the order of the chief commander.

4. Then… the trump of God will sound.  After the sub-commander had issued his orders, the trumpeter would issue his calls so the soldiers could know what to do: whether to attack or retreat, whether to go forward or reverse, whether to go right or left.  So the trump of God will sound.

5. Then the dead in the Messiah will rise first.  This is why the dead saints will not miss out on the benefits of the Rapture, they will receive them first by being raised first.

6.  Those who are alive will be caught up (or be raptured) to meet the Lord in the air.

7.  The believers will ever be with the Lord.  From then on, believers will be with Him because He is their husband.

rings

The Wedding Ceremony

Now the Bride is with her Groom and so the wedding ceremony can take place.  As in the analogy, the ceremony took place in the groom’s house.  There were only a few guests at the actual ceremony, usually family members and two witnesses.

Once again, the Jewish marriage system foreshadows what will take place between Jesus and His Bride, the Church.  At the ceremony in Heaven, there will only be a few in attendance.  These will be those who have already been raptured.  Revelation 19:6-8 describes the wedding ceremony:

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

 

The Wedding Feast

 

In the analogy the bride was hidden away for 7 days in the bridal chamber (huppah).  So too will Christ’s Bride be hidden away for 7 years during the Great Tribulation upon the earth.

 “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:19

Then after this 7-year period the veil will be lifted off the Bride and she will be revealed in all her glory:

 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 21:2

The Wedding Feast is different from the ceremony, in that whereas only a few were invited to the ceremony, many are invited to the Feast.  It is the Wedding Feast that will usher in the Millennial Kingdom on earth and so it takes place on the earth.

The ones invited to the wedding Feast will be as follows:

  • The Old Testament saints (including John the Baptist, whom are not resurrected with the Church, but after the Tribulation period.)
  • The Tribulation saints (whom are saved by faith in Christ during the Tribulation period, but not resurrected until after the Second Coming.)
  • Israel (those who survive the Tribulation)

“And the angel said[b] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”” Revelation 19:9

 

The Home of the Bride

We cannot forget the glorious, eternal home that Jesus is even now preparing for His beloved Bride…

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal….” Revelation 21:9-11

 

Conclusion

“The Spirit and the bride say “Come!”… (Revelation 22:17).

If you do not know Jesus the Messiah as your Lord and Saviour, hear His voice today and come to Him.  He, in essence, is making to you a marriage proposal.  Will you allow the One who gave up His life for you to be your Husband….to have and to hold…in sickness and in health…forsaking all others from this day forward?

And will you, accept the cup offered to you and become part of His Bride?  Will you pledge to Him your troth (your faithfulness) from this day forward?

If you do know Jesus, if you have already been betrothed to the Bridegroom, then I exhort you to remain faithful to Him.  God is not slack concerning His promises as humans are, Jesus is returning for you very soon. He has already paid the Bride-price for you with His own precious blood.  Keep watching and waiting for Him.

It won’t be long now!

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32)

Next time, Is Virginity Important?

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Marriage and the Church

ringsThis post is the interpretation of the analogy which I wrote about recently, (the significance of jewish marriage customs).  If we look at these Jewish customs in the light of Jesus Christ and His Bride then we will begin to see, not only the beauty of the analogy, but also the bearing this has on us as Christ’s Bride, the Church.

All the Way from His Father’s House

As we saw the young man coming to the young woman’s home, all the way from his Father’s house, so Jesus Christ did this for His Bride.  He came from Heaven to earth to redeem His Bride.  It was a long way for Him to come.  He left the glory and worship of Heaven to enter this dark, sin-stained world.  Although He is God, He humbled Himself and took on human flesh:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  Philippians 2:6-8

The Bride-Price (Mohar)

In ancient Jewish customs, the Bride-price was a very high price to pay, and for some young men it was simply too high, they couldn’t afford a bride.  The higher the price that was paid, the less incentive for a young man to divorce his betrothed.  This gave the young woman comfort that her betrothed would in fact return for her.

Jesus Himself paid a very high price for His bride, the ultimate price – He paid with His own blood.  His life was poured out for her.  No higher price has ever been paid than what He paid.  We can take comfort in this, knowing that the price that Jesus paid was so high, His own life, that we know that He will return for us.

The Agreement

In the analogy, the young man and the father discussed in private and agreed upon the price that the young man would need to pay in order to purchase his bride.  This too was the case in the plan of redemption, which was formed and agreed upon (or covenanted) from all of eternity within the eternal counsel of the Godhead.  (Read: Revelation 13:8; Psalm 110:1; Psalm 2:7, 8)

Paid in Full

The Bride-price is hence agreed upon.  And so the young man pays the price in Full to the father in order for the marriage covenant to be established….

…and so we see Jesus.  There He is, nailed to the cross, beaten, whipped, bloodied.  The Son of God with men’s spit on his face, with self-righteous heads shaking at His humiliation.  He cries out with a loud voice “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

Everything He had come to do, everything that had been pre-determined in the eternal counsel of God, had now been accomplished.  He had said to His Father “Thy will be done” and now it had been done.  His was a cry of victory.

There at the cross, the sinless Son paid in full the debt owed, our debt, for the sin of mankind to the Father.  Oh what a beautiful Saviour!

And he has blotted out by his authority the bill of our debts which was adverse to us and he took it from the midst and nailed it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:14, Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

The Handing Over of the Bride-Price

The Bride-price was agreed upon and paid, now it needed to be handed over to the Father.

On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest killed the goat of the sin offering for all of the children of Israel on the altar. He then brought the blood of the sacrifice inside the veil of the Holy Place and presented it to God by sprinkling it on and in front of the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:15) The High Priest could not come into contact with anything impure or unholy before he had brought the blood into the Holy Place.

As everything that happened under the Old Covenant was a picture (or type) of our Lord Jesus, so too did Jesus, our great High Priest, have to hand over His blood (the Bride-price) to the Father.

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12

In John 20:17 Jesus meets Mary Magdalene outside of His tomb.  He was risen from the dead but, as yet, had not presented His blood to the Father, and so He said to her :

“…Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father…”

Note: that it was the groom-to-be that paid the price in full.  The Bride was not required to add anything, nor could she, to what the groom had paid.  

The Glass of Wine

A glass of wine is poured.

Now the bride is invited into the groom’s presence.  It is the Holy Spirit whom calls in the lost, but we are used as His mouthpiece.

Just as the bride in the analogy was offered a glass of wine to drink to show her acceptance of the covenant with the groom, so too Jesus, the Bride-Groom, offered His disciples a cup of wine.

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.  Mark 14:23

This was Christ’s “marriage proposal” to His Bride.  And just as that young woman could either accept or reject the marriage proposal, so too can each of us.   Every time the gospel is proclaimed through this world it is Christ once again issuing His proposal to the lost sinner.

So by Jesus offering His disciples the Cup, He was instituting the New Covenant, just as the marriage covenant was explained to the young woman.  The disciples drank from the cup He offered and thereby accepted His proposal and consented to the covenant He was making with them.   As they drank from the cup He offered, the disciples willingly entered into the covenant which was to be established at Jesus’ death.  Another important point here is that upon entering into covenant with Him, they also entered into covenant with each other, as the Bride.

When Jesus said this is my blood of the covenant..” He was explaining to them that it is His blood that is the Bride-price. It is the blood that will institute the new covenant He is making with them.  The disciples, being Jews and familiar with the marriage customs of the day, would have understood the implication.

Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:25

Here Jesus is referring to the consummation of the betrothal – the marriage and Wedding Feast of the Bride and the Lamb in Revelation 19:7.

The Covenant

Just as the young Jewish couple are now considered husband and wife, although betrothed, rather than that of fully married, so too are we, as Christ’s Bride, wholly set apart, or consecrated, for our husband and exclusively committed to Him. As we willingly enter into covenant with Him, it is now only divorce that can dissolve the union. (ie. Spiritual adultery on our part).

When we partake of communion we are showing forth the Lord’s death until He comes.  This is not just an empty religious ceremony but a loving way of the Bride remembering her Groom and confirming her faithfulness to Him.  It is her way of saying “I have not forgotten You, nor the covenant we made with each other.  I am remaining faithful to You, my Groom, while I wait for You to return for me.  I remember the Bride-price you paid for me, Your blood was the price you paid to gain me, and so how can I not be faithful to a Groom who would pour out His life for me?”

Being part of His Church, the mystical Body of Christ, we also enter a covenant relationship with others within the Body. His Body is made up of individual believers, but once we enter into covenant with Him, we are also entering into union with other believers.  Christ never intended individualism within His Body, it is a mystical community of unity and oneness with each other.  This is why it says in 1 John :

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another…. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other…. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Just as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, so too are we expected to do this for each other.

 

The Departure

After Jesus instituted the New Covenant with the disciples, and offered them the cup of His “marriage proposal”, which they accepted, He then prepared them for His soon departure.  Just as the young man prepared to depart from the young lady’s home after their betrothal, so Jesus too must go away for a time.

Just as the young man comforts his bride-to-be with these words at his departure, so Jesus Himself comforts His Bride-to-be with the same words:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  John 14:1-3

But Jesus went further than the young man in His comforting promise – He not only promised that He will return, but also that in His absence He will provide a Comforter for her:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you…. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”  John 14:16-26

Jesus made His departure 40 days after His death and resurrection.  In Acts 1:9-11 it says:

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.  And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;  Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

Once again we, as Jesus’ Bride-to-be, are comforted with the knowledge that He will return the same way in which He departed.

And true to His Word, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, was given 10 days later at Pentecost.

The Waiting Bride – To – Be (That’s Us!)

As the betrothed of Jesus Christ, what is our role as we await His return?

  • Watch as did the young woman.  Watching is to stay-awake, to be sober, to be vigilant against the enemy, to use our mind to interpret end-times Bible prophecy and to pray.  Jesus and the apostles connected prayer with watchfulness.
  • Wait for Him.   This is not a passive state, but rather we need to actively await Him. We need to live in a state of expectancy, for we do not know when His return will be, although we can tell His warnings in scripture that it will not be long now.  And as we wait we should be preparing ourselves as a Bride.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)” Revelation 19:7, 8

  • Be faithful to our Bridegroom, just as that young bride was faithful to her betrothed.  We have entered Covenant with Him and this not to be taken lightly by us.  A covenant relationship is just as binding as a marriage.  We should not look upon another while we wait for Him, our eyes should be steadfastly fixed upon Jesus, as we “set our mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).  It is possible for us to commit spiritual adultery whilst He is away.  How do we do this?  The Bible says quite clearly:

You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.”  (James 4:4 AMP)

 

  • Be Not Deceived by false prophets, false Christs or false doctrines. Jesus Himself warned us to :

Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many…. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time” Matthew 24:4-25

The best way to recognize the counterfeit, is to know the real thing.  So get to know your Betrothed, Jesus Christ.  Spend time with Him and study the Word of God.

For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”  2 Corinthians 11:2-3

  • Consecrate Ourselves to Him. To be consecrated is to be declared or set apart as sacred and holy.  This is something we willingly do for Him.  It is surrendering our own will and our very lives to Him.  We have been bought with a (bride) –price, at the huge expense of Christ’s own blood, therefore our body is no longer our own to do with as we choose.  It is now His property:

But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:17

  • Be Sanctified by Him.  We consecrate ourselves to Him, but we are sanctified by Him.  This is what He does in us, by His Holy Spirit.  Sanctification is a process of being purified and made holy.

We need to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in us as He sanctifies and cleanses us “with the washing of water by the word, (so) that He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:26, 27

This will include trials, tribulations and suffering on our part, but we must yield to the Holy Spirit and to the loving discipline of the Lord to His children.

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:5-11

Next time….The Return of the Bride-groom


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The Beauty (and Significance) of Jewish Marriage Customs

jewish-wedding-gift

In my last post (Marriage, yep marriage) I wrote briefly how marriage was specifically designed by God for a purpose.  The purpose of marriage between a man and a woman is that it is to be a testimony and a prophetic signpost in order to point the way to Christ and His Bride – the Church.

In this post we will look at Jewish marriage customs.  Why?  Because I believe that as followers of Jesus Christ in this post-modern age it is easy to miss the beauty and significance of the eternal truths displayed in Jewish marriage.  Jesus Christ’s words and actions take on greater meaning when we understand the culture of Christ’s day.  I believe it will be beneficial to us, as His  Bride, to understand the nature of our covenant relationship with Him, the importance of His promises made to us and to understand the true beauty of marriage.. It is my hope that through this we will get a glimpse of the eternal significance of marriage and the hope that we have in Christ, as His Church….

jewish girlSo, I will start by asking you to picture a young woman living at home with her father, mother, brothers and sisters.

One day a young man comes to her home.  He has travelled all the way from his father’s house in order to ask for her hand in marriage.  The young man brings three important things with him:

  •  a large amount of money,
  • a skin of wine and
  • a betrothal contract, called a Shitre Erusin.

The young woman’s father goes with the young man into a private room and they discuss the price that must be paid by the young man in order to purchase his prospective bride (the mohar).  Once the bride-price is agreed upon, the young man must pay the price in full to the father for the marriage covenant to be established.

A glass of wine is poured.

It is at this point that the young woman is invited into the room.  She sees the young man who has come all this way for her.  Perhaps it may be the first time she has met him, perhaps they have known each other for a long time.  In any case, the terms of the marriage covenant are explained to her and her father asks for her consent to the marriage.  If she approves and consents to the marriage she drinks from the glass of wine that has been poured.  As a symbol of the covenant relationship that has been instituted, the young man also drinks from the same cup of wine, over which a betrothal benediction has been spoken.

cup

The young couple are now considered husband and wife, although their status is betrothed, rather than that of fully married.  By her partaking of the wine, the young lady is now wholly set apart, sanctified or consecrated, for her husband and exclusively committed to this young man.  She has willingly entered into a legal contract with him and now it’s only a divorce that can dissolve the union.

The young man now prepares to depart from her home.  He is going away, back to his father’s house, to prepare a place for her, his bride.  As he gets ready to leave he notices the sadness of his young bride at his departure and he thus makes her this promise:

In my father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  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.”

Comforted by the promise of her betrothed, she watches him depart, knowing that he will return for her, just as he said he would.  She keeps herself busy preparing for his return, even though she does not know exactly when that will be.  The fact that she has been bought with a price and that she is now no longer her own, brings her great comfort for it gives her the assurance, along with his promise, that he will return for her.

And so, day by day she watches for his return.  She knows that she must be ready to go at any given moment.  As she waits for her wedding day, it brings her great joy to learn how to live as a wife and mother in Israel and to put together her wedding clothes and linens.

Her betrothed, meanwhile, has not forgotten his bride and is busy preparing for her a place.  He wants his bride to be happy and so sets about building and organizing her living arrangements in his home.  He also does not know when the day of the wedding will take place.  In fact, no one knows the day except his father.  His father will only give permission for him to go and collect his bride when he is fully satisfied with the living arrangements made by his son.

When the time comes, the father gives permission to his son, and the betrothed takes three days to prepare before he begins his journey to go and collect his bride.  He brings with him two of his closest friends and other male escorts.  This would usually take place at night and a torch light procession is made to the young lady’s home.

shofarThe groom’s arrival is preceded by a loud shout and the blowing of a trumpet (shofar) in order to alert his bride that he is on his way.  Her heart leaps for joy at the sound.  She knows that her faithful waiting and watching for him has not been in vain.  He is returning for her as he had promised.

She is taken, along with her female attendants, back with him to his father’s house.  There the wedding guests are already assembled in expectation of the wedding ceremony.  At the ceremony another contract, the Ketubah, which contains the promises made to the bride by the groom, is witnessed by the two friends of the bridegroom and then given to her parents.  During this whole process she remains veiled.

jewish bride

Next, the bride and groom are escorted to the bridal chamber, (huppah), where her groom gives her some gifts.   The following seven days are spent together in the huppah as the friend of the groom stands outside the door.  He waits for the groom to relate to him the news of the consummation of the marriage.  At the announcement of the consummation to the wedding guests, there takes place feasting and joy for seven days. At the completion of the “seven days of the huppah”, the groom brings out his bride, finally with veil removed.  Now all can see his bride as they join in the wedding feast.

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32)

Next time, the explanation of this analogy in Marriage and the Church