I have been to quite a number of Christian weddings—it is a delight to witness two people coming together to serve God. The happiness that the couple exude is infectious and it is exciting to be around that much love. It is a beautiful event to be a part of and I am always delighted that people invite me to be a part of their special day. But it is not necessarily easy to attend weddings as a single person. The day is a reminder of what I deeply desire but do not have. Couples sit each other in church and at the reception. It is always a bit of a lottery to see whom I will be sitting next to at the singles reception table trying to make small talk.
Is heaven going to be like going to earthly weddings, surrounded by couples and sitting by myself? … I am certain that this will not be the case.
Christians, rightly, have a high view of marriage. I once heard a pastor preach teaching that there will be no marriage in heaven. But he went on to declare that he hoped to sit next to his wife, even if they were not married, in heaven. I think he meant it as a sweet statement on how much he loves his wife and marriage. But I had a very strong reaction to this innocuous line. I am to spend eternity in heaven being reminded of the fact that I was single on earth, too? Is heaven going to be like going to earthly weddings, surrounded by couples and sitting by myself?
Thankfully, I have thought a lot about heaven and marriage recently, and I am certain that this will not be the case. Part of the answer is found in Ephesians 5:22-33—one of the most popular passages used at Christian weddings. This is unsurprising as it paints a magnificent picture of a Christian marriage. But lately it has occurred to me that using this passage solely to teach about marriage, husbands and wives is short-changing a beautiful part of Scripture that is for everyone. It brings together the imagery of a wedding and heaven together in describing Jesus’ return. In fact, in recent times, as a single person, this passage has ministered and comforted me more than other passage of the Bible.
1. Christ and the Church
How does a passage that mentions a husband (x6) and a wife (x9) fifteen times in eleven verses offer a message that includes everyone? Because the repeating pattern in Ephesians 5:22-33 is the way that the marital relationship is to mirror the relationship between Christ and the church. Wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ (v24); husbands are to love their wives just as the Christ loved the church (v25 & v28); husbands are to present their wives holy and blameless, just as Christ presents the church to himself (v27); husbands are to provide and care for their wives just as Christ does for the church (v29).
So whilst not every believer will experience marriage this side of heaven, every believer, through the work of Christ, belongs to the church. When taken in this way, this passage actually has something to say not only about marriage, husbands and wives; but to all Christians.
2. Love and Marriage
Being loved is wonderful. We long for it, pursue it and fight to keep it when we find it. Part of the reason why (western) marriage is so popular must be the expectation that we are and will always be loved in a marriage. Certainly, husbands are commanded to love their wives in v25. But love is more than a feeling; it’s a call to action in Ephesians. Husbands are to love their wives so much that they are to be willing to sacrifice their own lives (v25) and to care as much as their own bodies (v29). It is a tremendously difficult task and it must be enthralling to be loved in this way. This, I think, is the way that women wish to be loved. A quick survey of romance movies and books would seem to confirm it: what makes a woman ‘swoon’ is the idea that someone might love them so sacrificially. Therefore, when they do not have a husband to love them like this, the yearning can lead to pain, bitterness, envy and disappointment.
Believers already have access to this tremendous love that everyone dreams and desires.
Except … we are loved in this way. Repeatedly in this passage, husbands are called to love their wives as Christ did (v25), or to care for her as Christ does (v29). Believers already have access to this tremendous love that everyone dreams and desires. The proof? In order to free us from our slavery to sin and win us back from Satan, Jesus has already given up his life. The cross is the ultimate evidence that we are loved more profoundly, more deeply and more wholly than we could ever imagine. What’s more, the person that loves us so completely is the only perfect man that has ever lived.
All believers, then, already have a husband that loves and cherishes them and has laid down his life for them.
This is an important message for all believers! Some of us have never been married and long to be. Some of us have been married but no longer are. Some of us are married but are not loved the way that God has called for in a godly marriage. Half of us that are happily married and joyfully loved will one day be single again.
So, for all of us, this is my takeaway message from Ephesians 5:22-32: One day, my Saviour, Jesus Christ, will return. When he does, he will marry the church. The expression ‘perfect husband’ has never been literally true, except in his case. At that wedding, I will be his bride; perfect in his eyes—having been won at a tremendous cost. I will be clothed in the holiness and righteousness he earned. I will have a wedding so beautiful that the wedding reception will literally last for eternity.
I have always wanted to be married. I have not ever imagined that I would be single for so long. It is possible that I may never marry. But that thought does not fill my heart with dread, as it used to. Because joy, thankfulness and anticipation overflow from this happily ever after.
 When Paul talks about ‘the church’ in Ephesians, he often means the universal Church, rather than the local church