Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bride and the Bridegroom in The Book of Revelation

I've been pondering some parallels between the themes of The Song of Solomon and The Book of Revelation. Revelation and The Song are high peaks of the Bible, much disputed in their interpretations but surely important!

My question is - is Revelation marked by 'espousal theology' - the story of the bridegroom and his bride? 

If marital language has any part in Biblical thinking then obviously Genesis (where marriage is founded) sets the tone, clearly books like Hosea continue this along with the Psalms (say, Psalm 19 where the sun reveals the glory of God as bridegroom in the sky... or Psalm 45 that is laden with marital language), and of course Ephesians (so much of Christ's love, and his love is to lay his life down for his bride the church), plus plenty of bridegroom language in the Gospels (where Jesus is the loving bridegroom, where the bridegroom will depart, and then return). The Song is perfectly in tune, but what if the very last book of the Bible draws it all together?

Sam Storms: "Of special importance is the possible allusion in this passage to Song of Solomon 5:2 which if intentional, would lend support to the possibility of a typological/figurative interpretation of the book."While Ann Matter writing on Medieval Commentators says: "It is no historical accident that so many medieval exegetes commented on both the Apocalypse and the Song of Songs." That might lead you down some mystic roads, but anchor that to the gospel and it leads to the kind of intimacy that is suitable if Christ is the bridegroom, and we his bride.

Espousal Themes in The Book of Revelation
Mike Bickle would call it The Bridal Paradigm. He has some great insights as well as some quirks!
Turning to the text. The opening descriptions of Jesus echo the portrayal of 'Him' in The Song of Songs.
The Seven Letters have some kind of chiastic pattern.

1 - Jesus seeks the first love of his bride.
  2 - Jesus promises to hold on to his bride even to death.
     3 - Jesus gives his bride a new name
        4 - Jesus wont tolerate his bride being seduced into spiritual adultery
     5 - Jesus gives his bride a secure name, secure in his love
   6 - Jesus promises to hold fast to his bride, it'll be evident she's loved.
7 - Jesus seeks union with his bride, to come and enjoy love with her.

Then we have the defeat of the harlot (using the bridal imagery negatively, as sin is spiritual adultery)... And the wedding supper (19:7) and the bride adorned (21:2) And the final cry of the Spirit & bride (22:17), Come Lord Jesus, or in the Song 'Make haste my beloved'. With Jesus as the longed for royal bridegroom who is slaughtered as a lamb, for his bride... I think that's how you know if the Spirit is at work in you: do you have a growing desperation for Jesus to come?

1. The Book of Revelation isn't so weird. But, like The Song needs a bit more thought than some other books. Note, I'm not saying it's the only theme in the book - probably many many Biblical themes are drawn together in this book, as in The Song (where there's lots of land, temple, royal, sacrifice language)
2. Jesus is the royal bridegroom not the bad guy in judgement. The ultimate lover is wrathful toward the one who tried to seduce and persecute his bride. 
3. If the "espousal gospel" theme runs through The Book of Revelation then the end of the book isn't disconnected from the opening, but a rather a suitable climax.
4. The book isn't about predictions and strange theories, it's about the bridegroom and his bride. The  love that they share and the sweet expectation of their wedding. Read Revelation rightly and you long for Jesus.


  1. Very interesting post Dave. I'm not convinced that the 'bridal paradigm' is the primary lens through which to look at Revelation, but it is clearly an important one, and one that deserves more reflection.

    1. I'm not altogether sure it accounts for everything... the book does seem to draw all the Bible's themes together.

      So, it seems good to me to see the espousal theme as at least part of the picture - not least because of the wedding but because of the love letters and the woman/prostitute material in the centre of the book.

      Much more study needed for me.