Chapter 9: The Marriage Covenant
The most urgent prophecies in the Bible are directed at God’s Spirit-begotten people. Why? Because eternal life is on the line. If they rebel and fail to repent of their sins, they will lose the opportunity to live forever in God’s Family.
A few have asked, “What is so bad about being dead for all eternity?” Looking at it physically, it isn’t that bad at all. But if you look at it spiritually, it’s catastrophic! It’s like turning away from a pile of precious jewels to a pile of dung. But even that comparison is inadequate to explain the firstfruits being called to marry Christ and then obscenely rejecting that invitation!
In this chapter I hope to help you see just how utterly fantastic the firstfruits’ calling really is.
“Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations” (Ezekiel 16:1-2). God says the Ezekiel watchman must cause Jerusalem to know her abominations. In the end time, there is a work warning physical and spiritual Israel.
Jerusalem is a type of national Israel. But there is also a Jerusalem above, “the mother of us all,” which is the Church (see Galatians 4:26). In Ezekiel 16, God’s primary focus is on Jerusalem above—the end-time Church of God. God’s Church receives truth from Jerusalem above. This is probably one of the most inspiring chapters in the Bible! Of course it also applies generally to national Israel. However, the main focus is on a wife who has broken her marriage vows.
Ezekiel 16 discusses two marriages: first, an Old Covenant marriage with ancient Israel; second, a New Covenant marriage with God’s Church today. The main focus is on the New Covenant marriage. There are two Israels—physical and spiritual. The ancient Israelites should have kept the letter of God’s law, but failed. They didn’t have God’s Holy Spirit, as spiritual Israel, God’s Church, does today, so they could not have kept God’s law spiritually. However, God’s Church today should keep the spirit of God’s law.
“Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine” (Ezekiel 16:8). The expression “spread my skirt over thee” is a sign of marriage.
The best explanation of that expression is in Ruth 3:8-11. Ruth met Boaz at the time of the firstfruit harvest in Israel, and that meeting culminated in a marriage on the day of Pentecost. That day of Pentecost pictures Christ marrying His wife—who is to help Him rule the world. The marriage of Boaz and Ruth was a type of Christ’s marriage to the Church. “I spread my skirt over thee” also means that God protects His wife as any good husband should, if His wife is loyal.
God’s loyal people who are in this marriage relationship are protected by Christ from the Great Tribulation—in His “skirts”! Remember Ezekiel 5, where, in the midst of the threefold destruction of Israel, God will take a few and bind them in His skirts (verses 1-3). God will protect His loyal Philadelphians. Those who aren’t protected (verse 4) will be cast into the fire. The Laodiceans are not bound in God’s skirts. They have rebelled against God and must also be punished in the Great Tribulation to get them to repent.
To be bound in God’s skirts is God’s coded way of saying the Philadelphians grasp the marriage covenant with God and the Laodiceans don’t! The Laodicean Church has lost sight of this mind-staggering future as Christ’s wife.
In Ezekiel 16:8, God says you became mine—you became my wife. That happened to only two groups: ancient Israel and the firstfruits called before Christ returns. Both groups became Christ’s wife by entering into a marriage covenant. However, the book of Ezekiel was written after God’s marriage to ancient Israel.
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). Christ’s wife must be ready when He returns. We are now to be preparing for that fabulous marriage—which Christ looks upon as already being consummated! That’s why we are called His “wife”—not His fiancée. We must think about this marriage as our Husband does! It is extremely urgent that we get ready to be Christ’s wife for all eternity! This is the most exalted reward ever offered to any human being at any time!
At baptism, the firstfruits make a marriage covenant to obey God and be born again as Christ’s wife. This far transcends the marriage covenant He made with the physical nation of Israel! Ours is a special marriage covenant available only to the firstfruits.
“Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil” (Ezekiel 16:9). Water and oil are types of God’s Holy Spirit, which applies only to His marriage to the firstfruits. Ancient Israel and the nations of Israel today never received God’s Holy Spirit.
“I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk” (verse 10). Fine linen is an inspiring expression. Exodus 39:27 tells us that Aaron and his sons—the highest level of priests in the tabernacle—were the ones who wore fine linen. Of course, national Israel failed as a kingdom of priests for God.
The highest level of priests for God in the World Tomorrow will be Christ’s wife! His wife has the responsibility to be king-priests forever—for all eternity! That is our calling today. This is why we must be tried and tested. This is the highest calling God has to offer! We can’t stumble into this responsibility. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. …” (Revelation 19:7-9).
Since this is an end-time prophecy, the “fine linen” symbolizes our righteousness today. God is clothing His Bride with the fine linen of righteousness!
Our biggest challenge is to let God’s Holy Spirit expand our minds to comprehend this magnificent calling!
Christ’s Bride is now making herself ready. This is the ultimate calling God will ever give to any human being! How can we become lukewarm about such a majestic opportunity?
The Bride’s Beauty
“I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head” (Ezekiel 16:11-12). A crown was put upon her head. The crown indicates she is a queen—Christ’s own royal wife! She has all the finery of the bridal adornment! This lady is going to rule with Christ!
“Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom” (verse 13). This is history and prophecy. Ancient Israel prospered into a kingdom, but still failed God. The Church of God today and all of the firstfruits are the Kingdom of God in embryo—to be born again as the Kingdom of God! Rejecting this incredible firstfruit calling is the real tragedy of turning away from God, not merely dying for all eternity. It’s the missed opportunity that is so terribly sad.
Some Laodiceans think God will give them this mind-splitting reward if they just stay in a church! A church is not our husband—Christ is! We must learn to follow Him wherever He goes.
“And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God” (verse 14). This applies far more to Christ’s spiritual Bride. God’s perfect comeliness, or character, comes through His Holy Spirit—through letting Christ live in us (Philippians 2:5). Conversion is thinking like God and becoming godly—ultimately to be born into His Family! That comes only through God’s righteousness in us.
There is a serious problem though. God sets a very high standard to prepare us for this fabulous future. The sad part is, many of God’s people fail to live up to His standard.
Christ’s Bride Today
“But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by …” (Ezekiel 16:15). The word fornications should be translated adultery! This is a higher level of sin. Ancient Israel was married to God. True Christians are married to Christ today. If we turn away from God to another god—as the end-time Laodiceans have done—it is adultery!
Remember, this is prophecy for today. Only God’s firstfruits can commit adultery in this end time, because only they are married to Christ.
Bible translators don’t understand about God’s marriage and God’s Family. That’s why they use the word fornications instead of adultery.
We are not officially married to Christ until He returns. We must prove ourselves before Christ marries us, under the New Covenant. (That was not the case under the Old Covenant.) However, God already looks upon the Church today as His wife. Revelation 19:7 says “his wife hath made herself ready.” It doesn’t read “His bride-to-be has made herself ready.” The time frame here is just before our marriage to Christ. This verse alone reveals Christ’s thinking. This lady was His wife while she was getting ready for the marriage. This is what God’s Word says. We must believe it. That is how we walk by faith. God still looks upon us as Christ’s wife, and if we do as He says, that is our destiny. He sees our covenant and marriage to Him as already consummated—even when that technically is not true. But God’s part of the covenant is absolute and is as good as consummated because He is God.
Of course, God’s part of the covenant is absolutely assured. But we must be tested first.
“… God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:17). That is why Christ calls us His wife—even though the marriage itself will not actually be official until the marriage supper is celebrated (Revelation 19:7-9). John 6:47 states that he who believes on Christ “hath everlasting life.” Do you have eternal life now? Technically no. But God still looks upon His people as already having eternal life. That’s because we do—if we uphold our part of the covenant. At the same time, many other scriptures indicate that we don’t now have salvation.
The sin in Ezekiel 16:15 is called adultery in the Hebrew. Why? As I have said, ancient Israel had already been in captivity for over 100 years when Ezekiel prophesied to the Jews. Yet the book of Ezekiel is directed to Israel. So it has to be to an end-time Israel. Many scriptures say this message is to the end-time nations of Israel. Yet end-time physical Israel has never been married to Christ. Only the Church is—as Christ views it. The primary meaning in this verse could only apply to God’s Church.
God views the marriage as already consummated. That is why He describes our turning away from Him as adultery.
Revelation 19:7 and Ezekiel 16:15 reveal how God views our calling now. This is why we can view this marriage as already consummated and also yet to be consummated. All too often, we view this marriage humanly. We need to view it through God’s Holy Spirit. God views the marriage through perfect character. God made a covenant. It is as good as done. By calling His people His wife, God is teaching us to build His character and think as He does. When God says He will do something, it is always done. He never breaks a covenant. So when we are engaged to Christ, it’s the same as a marriage. A covenant to be married is the same as a marriage—the way God views it. With God’s Spirit we should view it the same way.
However, there is the human element. We can fail and never be a part of that wedding. The lesson God is trying to teach us is that a covenant is a promise to keep your word. And our word should be fulfilled, if we manifest the character of God. Our word should never be broken. So God judges us on the basis of our promise, or our covenant. At baptism we said we would marry Christ and meet all the covenant conditions. So God judges us on the basis of our word, or covenant, to become His wife. Once we actually become His wife, we cannot commit adultery, because we’ll be God—members of the God Family—and God cannot sin. Viewing it spiritually, we can commit adultery only during the engagement period.
Carnal-minded men can’t grasp the magnitude of our reward. It takes the Holy Spirit of God to grasp what God is offering His firstfruits! The Laodiceans have lost this marriage-and-Family-of-God concept because they are spiritually blind. This is the greatest mistake they or anyone on Earth can make today! God says this adulterous sin is no “small matter” (Ezekiel 16:20). We know that many of them will repent before or during the Tribulation. But why must they be so rebellious that they allow Satan to turn them away from their most noble, majestic crown?
We must not forget who we are! Christ is our Husband. The firstfruits are His Bride—forever! Satan wants to blur or destroy that wonderful, most inspiring vision! We must not let him do that to us.
“[T]hou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them” (Ezekiel 16:21). The Laodicean children must go through the Great Tribulation—mainly because of their rebellious parents! What a horrifying penalty for God’s people who had the truth and rejected it!
“Thou has built thy high place at every head of the way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms” (verse 25). Ancient Israel sinned by associating closely with the world. The Laodiceans today invite the world into their churches and commit adultery. They have forgotten that they are Christ’s own wife!
“But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!” (verse 32). Again, this warning to those in God’s Church is far more serious than any warning to the nations of Israel, because their salvation is at stake! His wife is taking “strangers” instead of her Husband. That is what all the doctrinal changes are about in the Laodicean churches! Christ says this is no “small matter”! He is condemning the end-time Laodiceans—His wife—who have left Him! That is their cardinal sin!
“And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy” (Ezekiel 16:38). Note that God says He “will judge”—that is in the future! This is referring to Christ’s end-time spiritual wife.
And note, He is judging her “as women that break wedlock”! The Laodicean rebels are not being judged on the level of false religions who never were Christ’s wife. God is judging the Laodiceans as His wife who knew the truth and rebelled by turning to false gods! These Laodiceans are on the highest-level relationship that anyone can have with God. God will judge them accordingly.
The more we are given, the greater our responsibility toward God. When we are called to be Christ’s wife, God expects us to act like His wife—not an adulterous harlot!
This is why the Laodiceans will be spewed out of God’s mouth into the Tribulation.
“And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare” (verse 39). Ancient Israel was given great wealth by God. So were the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14-20). God takes it all away as they rebel.
“Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord God: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations” (Ezekiel 16:43). Notice, God says He “will recompense thy way upon thine head.” That is in the future! Ancient Israel had already been punished by going into captivity. This is referring mainly to an end-time wife who rebels and must go into captivity.
“Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter” (verse 44). The Church is typed by a woman. Israel, likened to the mother, was married to Christ under the Old Covenant. His marriage to the firstfruits, who are compared to the daughter, happened later.
When God discusses “mother” and “daughter,” He is illustrating that this prophecy is dual! The wife rebelled anciently and the wife rebels today, even though she has God’s Holy Spirit. The physical nations of Israel also go into captivity because they didn’t heed the message taught by Christ through Mr. Armstrong and the pcg.
“When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them” (verse 53). This will happen in the future. God says, “I shall bring again their captivity”! God sent His Old Covenant wife, ancient Israel, into captivity. In this end time, He must send His New Covenant wife into captivity as well! (That captivity will also include the modern nations of Israel.)
“For thus saith the Lord God; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant” (verse 59). “I will even deal with thee”—in the future. The people of ancient Israel had already been dealt with. They had gone into captivity for breaking the marriage covenant with God!
This verse is referring to an end-time marriage covenant where some have made an oath to keep a marriage covenant with God. All of those called today enter into this marriage covenant with Christ! The word oath means it will become a curse if they fail to keep their promise. This could only refer to the marriage covenant with the end-time saints!
Jesus Christ said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26‑27). Do you understand the seriousness of the commitment a person makes when he or she enters this covenant with Jesus Christ? Nobody but the firstfruits—those called before Christ returns—is ever offered the noble calling of being the wife of Christ! What a gloriously exalted calling they are rebelling against!
Ezekiel 16:62 reads, “And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord.” How condemning! God is essentially saying that the Laodiceans don’t deeply know Him today because they have been deceived into breaking the marriage covenant.
“I will even deal with thee as thou hast done” (verse 59). God says to whom much is given, of him shall much be required. The firstfruits have been given the highest calling in the Family of God! In God’s Family they will be on the wife level, while all the other saints will be on the children level! God will judge His wife according to her wedding covenant. That is judgment on the highest level! If only we can see what a fabulous, majestic calling God gives us today!
Monumental Job Ahead
“Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant” (Ezekiel 16:60). Notice, God remembers the covenant He made with them in their “youth.” The Laodiceans were treacherous to the wife of their youth—the Church when Mr. Armstrong was the physical leader (Malachi 2:14‑16). So the primary meaning here is for the Church. For more information on this, read Malachi’s Message.
God says, “I will remember my covenant with thee.” This refers to the marriage covenant. The Hebrew expression “I will establish” usually means “maintain a covenant” (see the Anchor Bible). This means God will punish His Laodicean wife and bring her back into this marriage covenant. All the Laodiceans who repent will be blessed by being able to maintain the marriage covenant, even though they don’t deserve it! None of us do.
This is not another covenant made in verse 60. It is the same marriage covenant that is “maintained” when the Laodicean wife repents! This covenant is “everlasting,” or eternal! What an incredibly inspiring future God’s wife has! The word everlasting, according to Gesenius’ Lexicon, “more often refers to future time.” This word is not referring to ancient Israel, but primarily to God’s wife of today and for all eternity!
“And I will betroth [or marry] thee unto me for ever …” (Hosea 2:19). The firstfruits—those called before Christ returns—will be Christ’s Bride forever! An unparalleled calling.
When we are married to Christ, what will our job be? “And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel” (verses 21-22). God’s physical and spiritual laws will be in harmony. The heavens and Earth are here personified as needing each other’s cooperation. Everything in the heavens and Earth—the whole universe—is brought into harmony with God’s laws! This is the monumental work that Christ and His Bride will direct for all eternity!
We are not getting ready to marry Christ so that we can pluck on harps forever! Our future job is of such magnitude only the mind of God can comprehend it!
“Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant” (Ezekiel 16:61). By this God means that others will come into His Family, but not on the wife level! Those who come into God’s Family later will be daughter churches—likened to children in God’s Family. They will not be on the wife level as the firstfruits are!
Can we grasp the mind-staggering promise God is making to His saints who are called now? Nobody else for all eternity will be on the wife level! They will be children of the wife who enters into a marriage covenant with God today! “And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord” (verse 62). God says “I will establish,” but it should read “I will maintain my covenant with you.” Then all of God’s people will know God and not be deceived anymore by Satan, as God’s Laodiceans are today.
“That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God” (verse 63). The Laodiceans will ultimately repent in shame for committing adultery and breaking their marriage covenant. Of course, in principle, this applies to all Israel and the whole world.
The firstfruits must be preparing fervently now for their marriage to Christ. We must have the vision to see beyond the marriage. Our great work isn’t ending when we marry Christ—it’s just beginning!