To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Col. 1:27-29) [emphasis added]Later, John will be shown the New Jerusalem which is also said to be the wife of the Lamb. Like the church, she too is prepared:
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev. 21:2+).
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. (Rev. 21:9-10+)When the Marriage of the Lamb takes place, the descent of the New Jerusalem is at least one thousand years in the future. The city will eventually be presented as a bride, but does not participate in the marriage described here.
The bride is a figure for a material city yet to come as well as for the inhabitants of that city. The bride-figure cannot be limited to the individuals who will live in the city. It must also include the literal city with her physical characteristics (Alford).1The New Jerusalem is the bride of the Lamb in the sense of the promised restoration of Jerusalem having found its ultimate fulfillment. See Jerusalem Married to God. See commentary on Revelation 21:9.The participation of the bride in her own preparation argues against any view which takes the bride as being merely the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2+, 9+) because the city on its own is inanimate.The preparation of the bride includes her judgment at the judgment seat (bema) of Christ:
Believers have to make themselves ready ere they enter on their eternal glory. That is, the story of earth has to be gone over again in the presence of Him who is Christ (2Cor. 5:10). The light of the throne will be cast over and upon every moment of our lives, discovering the hidden, and bringing out the true character of acts, and words, and service. . . . This, and more is the application of the judgment seat of Christ to the heavenly saints and precedes the marriage. . . The light of the throne has done its blessed word, bringing out into bold relief the whole story of her history on earth.2
Many references in the New Testament present the truth that the church will be judged by Christ Himself (Rom. 14:10-12; 1Cor. 3:11-16; 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 2Cor. 5:10-11; 2Ti. 4:8). Inasmuch as the translation of the church, from the pretribulational point of view, has already separated the righteous from the unrighteous, only saved people will be involved in the judgment of Christ in connection with the church. The judgment will have as its supreme question the matter of reward.3
1 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), Rev. 21:11.
2 Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), Rev. 19:7.
3 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), 277.