Marriage: An Eternal Perspective
BY MAX FERNANDEZ
Marriage is a shadow of what is an eternal reality–that reality being the Triune God. The Trinity is the doctrine that God has eternally existed as one God, yet three distinct persons. God, as eternal Creator, created the institution of marriage, but how is marriage a shadow of an eternal reality? The answer to this question is the Trinity. Understanding the Trinity (i.e. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) will help us better understand the connection between marriage and eternity.
Understanding the Trinity will help us better understand the connection between marriage and eternity.
Image-bearers of the Eternal God
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Mankind is made in the image of God, which means that man was made with communicable attributes of God. Communicable attributes are those attributes which God possesses, and man is able to possess as well. An example of a communicable attribute would be love.
In addition, man is relational. Man is relational because God is relational within his own Godhead–the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. The first two verses of Genesis reveal that God the Father and the Holy Spirit were present. Genesis 1:26 seems to imply that there is a conversation among the Godhead by the way the verse uses the plural pronoun us. Even though the Son is not explicitly identified in Genesis, passages such as the opening of John’s gospel account show that the Son is the One through whom all things were created:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)
Thus, the scriptures indicate that all of the Godhead were at Creation, and that they participated. This Trinitarian consideration has massive implications for the offspring of God.² The implications are first relational. The relational aspect of the Godhead can also be seen in the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17:5 which says, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” God was in relationship with Jesus Christ before the world was created. The Holy Spirit was in relationship with God before the world existed.
God created Eve to be in a unique relationship with Adam. The uniqueness of this relationship has a couple of different facets: (1) divine and (2) covenantal. By divine, I mean that Adam and Eve’s relationship was created to reflect the relationship that existed in the Godhead (see above). By covenantal, I mean that this is no mere contractual agreement. When Adam exclaims that Eve is “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh”, it becomes evident that this is no normal agreement. In addition, Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The union emphasized by this terminology is unique to all other human relationships in the Bible. God created Adam and Eve to be in a unique relationship with each other–in particular a relationship that would reflect the very Persons of God.
God created Adam and Eve to be in a unique relationship with each other–in particular a relationship that would reflect the very Persons of God.
Foreshadowing of the True
The covenant of marriage is not only tethered to the eternal God of the past, but marriage is also a foreshadowing of the true eternal reality. When you are walking in a forwards direction with the sun to your back, you can look down on the ground and see your shadow leading you with each step. As your shadow leads you, so it is important to realize that our earthly marriages are temporary images that cast a shadow towards where we are all heading–the true Husband. I say that our marriages upon this earth are temporary because that is what Jesus taught in Mark 12:24-25, but why are they temporary? It is because they are heading towards the true eternal reality of Jesus Christ, the true Husband, and the consummate church, the true Bride.
Our marriages upon this earth are temporary … because they are heading towards the true eternal reality of Jesus Christ, the true Husband, and the consummate church, the true Bride.
Ephesians 5:25-33 presents the truth of Christ and his bride quite clearly. “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). Our home has many beautiful, pictorial memories of our family. There are pictures of my children and of my wife, but when I arrive home, I do not select a photo of my wife to which I express my affection. I do not need to do that because the real person is in the home: why express affection to a photo when the real person is there? The photo is a memory of the true. In like manner, when we are with the Lord, there will not need to be any more foreshadows; we will be with the true Husband, and we, ourselves, are the true bride as believers. Our marriage is a foreshadowing of the clear New Testament truth of Jesus Christ and the church: “The shadow of covenant-keeping between husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and his glorified Church.”³
The Gospel & Marriage
The gospel directly impacts the way we understand the covenant of marriage. While in the last point, we looked at marriage as a foreshadowing, and we touched briefly on Christ and the church, but notice what Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Paul speaks of Christ giving himself–a reference to the suffering and death of Jesus. Jesus laid down his life, but it is not just that Jesus did this. It is important to understand how Jesus did this, and I don’t necessarily mean by way of a Cross. Jesus gave his life for undeserving, sinful enemies, and marriage is to be the place that foreshadows this Jesus. It is to be a place where this kind of unmerited love and reverence is to be shown.
Jesus gave his life for undeserving, sinful enemies, and marriage is to be the place that foreshadows this Jesus. It is to be a place where this kind of unmerited love and reverence is to be shown.
In application, this all means that your marriage exists for the purpose of showing the devotion and faithfulness of our God and Jesus Christ: “The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people.”⁴
This also means that—“Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant which rightly represents the Lord. ‘Till death do us part’ or ‘As long as we both shall live’ is a sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant.”⁵
Lastly, marriage can be good, but it cannot be godly apart from the application of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, marriage is the place where you both will continually be sanctified. It is the institution where gospel-love should be displayed. Marriage is the temporary human relationship that is tethered to the eternal God of the past and is in tension with the future true Husband/Bride. Sense the weight, beauty, and value of the great privilege that you have to be a part of this covenant. It must not be taken lightly, since it is ultimately for God’s glory.
Brief Application Questions:
- Are you humbled by the privilege that you have to reflect the glory of the eternal God?
- Have you asked the Lord to equip you with a greater measure of humility?
- Are you aiming at a good marriage as opposed to a godly marriage? If so, what needs to change?
- Husbands, what is one specific way you have manifested the gospel in your marriage today?
- Wives, what is one specific way the gospel has been evident through you towards your husband today?
¹See also Colossians 1:13-16.
²“offspring” is the language Paul cites in Acts 17:28 when referring to the fact that God created us–a reference he makes to a Greek poet.
³Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Kindle Location 123). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
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