Have you ever been invited to an engagement party?
It is a unique type of celebration. It is a celebration that two people have decided to marry one another. They have entered into a period of engagement. An engagement is not a guarantee of marriage, but is a formal declaration of love and is the first major step towards marriage. The engagement party is a celebration of hope.
Here is one thing that we do know when we are invited to an engagement party: at some point prior to the engagement party the groom-to-be has purchased an engagement ring and has asked the bride-to-be to marry him. The bride-to-be has happily said “yes” to the groom-to-be’s invitation for marriage and they now refer to one another as “fiancé”. We may not know all of the details but we know the basics of the events that have preceded this engagement party.
Many engagement parties are times for friends and family members from the two sides of the proposed union to meet one another. Many times the happy couple will share their story with those in attendance and in the modern era it will most likely be accompanied by a digital slide show of their life together so far. There will be lots of handshakes and hugs. There will be cake. There will be toasts and for the most part everyone will have a good time.
Many times you leave an engagement party with the burning question, “so when are they getting married?” Most couples answer that question with a vague period of time in the not too distant future. Every once and a while a couple will have the date set. Most people are happy that their friend or family member is now engaged to be married. So…what happens now? What is different? What does it mean to be engaged? What has really changed in their lives?
Well, the bride-to-be is most likely wearing a new ring (hopefully – and of course there is no condemnation in Christ for those who cannot afford an engagement ring). In our modern era, many engaged couples will change their Facebook relationship status to “engaged to”. There is also a lot of planning for the future that begins. The couple begins planning for the wedding, planning for the honeymoon and (hopefully) planning for life together as husband and wife.
The Apostle Paul compares our earthly life and relationship with Christ to an engagement period between a bride and groom.
For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2 NLT)
He also likens the relationship between the believer and Christ to the relationship between a husband and a wife.
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. (Ephesians 5:31-32 NLT)
In the OId Testament, God likens His relationship with Israel to the relationship between a husband and a wife.
I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the LORD. (Hosea 2:19-20 NLT)
So as believers in Christ are we engaged to be married or are we already married?
Well, let’s see if the scriptures will answer that question for us.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3 NLT)
God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Ephesians 1:12-14 NLT)
And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) (Romans 8:23-25 NLT)
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NLT)
I know those were lengthy passages of scripture but I believe they let us know that we are in our engagement period and (forgive me for the elementary comparison) that the Holy Spirit is the sign or evidence of our engagement. We have not entered into the fullness of our relationship with Christ because we are still living our lives here in time on the earth.
As believers we live our lives looking forward in hope and in faith for the day when we shall see Christ and be made like Him. The Sinner’s Prayer, ministry work, worship services and all of the Christian activities that we are engaged in on a daily basis are not the end of our salvation; they are merely the activities of our engagement party. Eternity with Christ in heaven is the end of our salvation and we must live our lives with the earnest expectation of receiving the fullness of that which Christ died on the cross to give each of us; “I have come that they might have life” (John 10:10).
So, for those of you living in this engagement period with me I write to encourage you. This present situation is not what we are living for; this is the engagement period. The bridegroom (Jesus) is coming. Let us live our lives in anticipation and expectation of His arrival. Let us live our lives as those who have received the tangible sign of His promise to us; the Holy Spirit. Let us walk worthy of our Lord; preparing ourselves and this world for His arrival.
The period of our engagement may be challenging and it may be long but the fulfillment of God’s gift of salvation to us through Jesus Christ is prize each of are waiting for. Let us live with the faith and hope in the God who keeps all of His promises.
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
“All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’
“But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’
“But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.” (Matthew 25:1-13 NLT)