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Our understanding of the kingdom of God takes a dramatic turn when we realize our first calling is to love and enjoy Jesus.
What would God preach to the human race if He knew He had only one more sermon? We can find the answer simply by turning in our Bibles to Matthew 21 and 22. Here the Holy Spirit records Jesus' last public sermon—a message filled with mystery, surprise and profound significance for the church today.
"The kingdom of heaven," Jesus said, "is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son" (Matt. 22:2).
These words exploded from the Lord's heart only days before He went to the cross. Up to that time, He had compared the kingdom of God to many things in His parables and teachings. Now He presented one final paradigm: the kingdom of God as a wedding feast.
Why did He save this theme until last? I believe Jesus was enticing His people with a dynamic new emphasis on divine romance, knowing it would excite the human heart as nothing else would. He wanted to stir up a hot desire in each of us for extravagant "bridegroom love," with Jesus Himself as the Bridegroom, and we, His people, His church, the cherished bride.
The prophet Hosea, in approximately 750 B.C., saw this paradigm coming. Speaking prophetically about how the redeemed would view the Messiah in the generation of the Lord's return, he wrote: "'And it shall be, in that day,' says the Lord, 'that you will call Me "my Husband"'" (Hos. 2:16).
Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:25, 31-32). The Holy Spirit then closed the written Word with this same bridal theme: "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'" (Rev. 22:17).
Our Spiritual Identity
Over the years, other kingdom comparisons have captured the church's attention, revealing a corresponding truth about our spiritual identity: We are the family of God, the army of God, the body of Christ, a royal priesthood. But I believe the bridal paradigm is coming to the forefront at this time in church history because of its unique impact on the human heart. Before the Second Coming of Christ, the Holy Spirit will emphasize a revelation of the Messiah as our Bridegroom God, and our spiritual identity will be transformed into one of a cherished, lovesick bride.
The emotional implications are vast. Not only will the first commandment—"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37)—be restored to its primary role in the church, but many of the ways we operate within our own hearts and with each other will change as we see Jesus as our heavenly Bridegroom.
For one, our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission will be less bruising. The reality is that when we work hard for God without being tenderized by the love of God, we often end up bruised, broken and burned out. We were never meant to function best as workers for God; rather, God designed us in His image to be lovers of God!
When we seek first to be extravagant lovers of Jesus, a dynamic of the Spirit is released in our inner man. We carry its reward in us: a lovesick heart fascinated with the beauty of Christ Jesus. In fact, our primary reward in this life is this ability to feel God's love—to be tenderized by His love for us and then to be exhilarated with love back to Him.
Only as lovesick worshipers are we able to maintain an overflowing heart toward God even in difficult circumstances. Sacrifices of obedience that were once a burden take on a new sweetness. People may treat us wrongly, and life may get tough. But if we have a fascinated, lovesick heart, our natural circumstances won't dominate our lives.
Sadly, many of us in the church today seek God for other things: more anointing for ministry, economic prosperity, favor with people. These are certainly blessings from God, but they were always designed to be secondary. When they become primary, our spiritual life is weakened. As the Holy Spirit reveals the bridal paradigm in the last days, I'm convinced the primary reward of the kingdom—the ability to experience God's love and love Him back—will come increasingly to the forefront in the hearts and minds of believers.
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