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The family is the foundation of a nation. The strength of a nation is ultimately measured by what is “normal” in its families, rather than in its military strength. The happiness of a family and nation as a whole can also be measured by its morality and freedom.
Throughout history, various religions and cultures have usually enslaved their women for a variety of stated reasons. The root cause of this is largely traceable to the religious view that matter is inherently evil. The idea of sexual relations, even within marriage, has often been categorized with this “evil matter.”
The natural remedy for some has been to advocate celibacy or to present celibacy as a superior spiritual state. For others (who do not wish to abstain from sexual relations), the solution was to enslave women, because of the idea that sex was “a necessary evil.” By considering sexual relations a sign of imperfection and sin, it was easy for men to cast the blame upon women for their own inability to remain celibate.
Biblical Marriage vs. Pagan Immorality
The Bible is radically different from most of the world’s religious systems. It begins with the radical principle that a good God created the material universe and pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Secondly, it sets forth marriage as a godly institution, declaring about Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
This statement was not made after Adam sinned, but while he was yet sinless. In other words, marriage was not created as an accommodation for man’s sinful condition, nor was sex an accommodation or outlet for animal impulses. The family was created in order to fulfill the divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
The early Church’s view on marriage was far superior to that of Rome and Greece, whose cultures were based on the view that matter and sex were inherently evil. In order to deal with this perceived evil, the pagans built temples and other religious centers designed to “purify” sex and marriage. The groves in Canaan, which the prophets denounced continually, were usually centers of legal prostitution. Roman and Greek temples had a near monopoly on the sex trade, all designed to transform sex and marriage into something that was “good.”
Legalized prostitution in the temples competed with marriage and made many men to lament that marriage itself was just something to be endured. Vishal Mangalwadi writes,
“Religious and aristocratic promotion of extramarital sex had colossal consequences. Easy availability of sex without commitment took away men’s motivation to be married. Dislike for marriage had become evident as early as 131 BC, when the Roman censor Quintus Metellus Macedonicus proposed that marriage must be made mandatory. Too many men preferred to remain single, leading the censor to concede: ‘If we could get on without a wife… we would all avoid that annoyance’.” (The Book That Made Your World, p. 285)
The Babylonian practice differed from the Greek, which even shocked Herodotus, the “Father of History,” in the fifth century B.C. He writes how women in Babylon were required to purify themselves for marriage by going to the town square and waiting for a man to toss a coin in her lap. In doing this, he purchased her services, and by having sexual relations with that man, she could then be married and supposedly be virtuous for the rest of her life!
The pagan view of marriage, then, was the virtual opposite of what is found in Scripture, where marriage is good and even necessary to fulfill the Fruitfulness Mandate. Again, the Bible prescribes moral laws restricting sexual relations to marriage in order to establish the family unit as the backbone of society, whereas in pagan societies, immorality was institutionalized in the culture by its religious viewpoint.
Authority vs. Agreement
God created marriage prior to the sin of Adam. However, the idea of authority in marriage was not instituted until after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:16). Mangalwadi comments on this on page 296 and 297 of his book,
“According to the Bible, the husband and wife are a team of equals. But the team is no longer how it was created—sinless. Both men and women have sinned, and it is impossible for two sinners to live happily ever after. In a perfect world it may be possible for a team of two to function without a notion of authority. But in a ‘fallen’ world, the only way a team of two sinners can function smoothly is for one of them to be recognized as the captain—not because the captain is the best, wisest, or always right, but because the creator and owner of the team—God—has given one of them the responsibility of leadership.
“Many hate the Bible because it says that the husband is the head of his wife, even though the New Testament defines leadership as servanthood….
“The Bible is not a book for ideal people. It is a handbook for sinners. No community of sinners can function without authority.”
The author comes close to recognizing the difference between Old and New Covenant marriage. Yet he understands that authority was made necessary because of sin—not just the original sin, but its result on human nature itself. Adam’s sin made all men mortal, and mortality is the weakness that causes men to sin, according to a literal rendering of Romans 5:12.
Sin created inevitable disagreements and so there arose the need for authority to decide upon a course of action (right or wrong). The real question is how to exercise authority wisely, of course, but the deeper goal is to seek agreement so that authority does not impose one’s will upon the other.
Agreement creates the environment by which authority is rendered irrelevant. Only then can marriage be what it was originally intended to be. God took the woman out of man in order to create a double witness in the family which could establish all things (Deuteronomy 19:15).
An ideal marriage is where both husband and wife hear God’s voice and are able to share His revelation with each other. When both hear the same revelation or instruction, they know that it is “established” on earth as it is in heaven. Neither must compromise what he or she believes the will of God to be. They agree, and they act accordingly. It is only when they fail to agree that authority is necessary to prevent paralysis or disintegration of the family. Such failure gives evidence that one or both of them are not hearing God’s voice properly.
The Old Covenant was a marriage covenant between God (Jesus Christ) and Israel. It was characterized by Israel’s vow of obedience and submission to God’s sovereignty. The Apostle Paul depicts Hagar, the bondwoman, as a type of the Old Covenant (Galatians 4:24). On the other hand, Sarah, the free woman, is a type of the New Covenant. Both of these were lawful wives of Abraham, but only one could bring forth the heir.
In other words, God’s original marriage to Israel in Exodus 19 was unable to bring forth the heirs of the promise. That marriage could only bring forth children of the flesh (Galatians 4:29; Romans 9:8). The point is that Christ appears to have two brides, not just one. Each bride is characterized by the type of relationship that established her marriage in the first place. Mount Sinai gave us the Old Covenant “Hagar” bride; Mount Sion (Hermon) gave us the New Covenant “Sarah” bride (Deuteronomy 4:48; Hebrews 12:22 KJV). Mount Hermon was the place where Jesus was transfigured after ascending the mount from Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).
The family unit is the greatest training ground for learning Kingdom principles and for building character. A husband and wife train each other in the knowledge of God through the experience of love and serving one another. Both are thus liberated gradually from the dictates of the flesh and learn to see and respect Christ in each other. Liberty from the old flesh man, whose identity was passed down to us from Adam and from our biological parents, eventually translates into personal liberty. When sufficient numbers of such liberated families are present, then whole communities and even nations can find political freedom.
Jesus was not married in His personal life, but as the Christ (or Messiah) He is to be married to a body of people called “the church.” Most sincere church people seek to be obedient to Him, but unfortunately, most are unschooled in the greatest objective, which is to be in agreement with Him. Jesus made it clear that God was our Father (Matthew 6:9), not just a Majestic King, or a Great Architect of the Universe, or a Supreme Judge.
God was not too aloof to mingle with us in the Person of Jesus Christ. He was not too holy to indwell us as temples. He was not scandalized by the thought of overshadowing us by His Spirit and begetting a New Creation Man within our hearts. Being a Father implies a family relationship that is personal, intimate, and based upon love.
Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament in His pre-incarnate form when He was known by the revealed name of Yahweh. Jesus Christ was thus the Lawgiver and was also the One that Israel married at Mount Sinai. That marriage ended in divorce (Jeremiah 3:8; Hosea 2:2), and Jesus will never again marry an Old Covenant bride. His next marriage will be a New Covenant bride, one who is not merely obedient but is in agreement with Him.
The average Christian is not yet mature or trained sufficiently to enjoy a New Covenant relationship with Christ. This is why most Christians are not overcomers. We are all yet in training, of course, but many skip school most of the time, and so they do not have any instruction in these matters. Training is mostly about learning obedience to the law of God, but the goal is agreement.
The law was given at the first Pentecost at Mount Sinai. The biblical pattern shows us that Pentecost trains us for the feast of Tabernacles. Tabernacles is a seven-day feast, which is also compared to a seven-day wedding feast. Those who are part of the “Sarah” bride are those who are “made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). The rest will have to wait for a thousand years (Revelation 20:5), when the next group of believers are added to the Sarah-bride company.
In knowing the distinction between the church and the overcomers, we are motivated to press on into the high calling of God (Philippians 3:14 KJV) and not settle for any lower calling. Certainly, God will not settle for any lower calling, for He will wait until we are in agreement with Him before He joins any individual to the Sarah-bride company.
The path to this company is set forth in the feast days, beginning with Passover, where we are justified by faith. The next step is Pentecost, where the law is written on our hearts, and we learn obedience while our fleshly desires fall away. This is the path toward Tabernacles, the third and final step in the path toward agreement (unity) with Christ.