Building an Eternal Marriage
Each Pentecost we remember how the Church of God was founded in A.D. 31 and the reason for its existence. Here’s a vital lesson from the creation account concerning the marriage between Jesus Christ and the Church. 

“Marriage is a natural union, but a divine institution, ordained of God. It was established, not by man, but by the Eternal God at creation, prior to the foundation of this world, and derives its authority from the divine laws of God, immutable and unchangeable.” This is how the marriage ceremony in God’s true Church begins. Many of us have heard these words before, but how meaningful are they to us?

Whether you are engaged to be married, married or single, the words of this ceremony should have a deep impact.

Male and female

“In the beginning … God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Genesis 1:1, 26). Notice how God made man in His own image and likeness: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (verse 27).

God then said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). From the start, God ordained marriage between a man and a woman. But why? You don’t need marriage to reproduce. As Herbert W. Armstrong often asked: Does marriage really serve any purpose?

The Bible reveals the answer.

Jesus Christ was born first, spiritually, into the Family of God. He became God’s firstborn Son, our Head and Pioneer. But there are many others, those “called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28-29). Many more sons are to be born later (Colossians 1:18).

Often we emphasize the fact that God is our literal Father and that we are His literal children. Yet we can never forget how eagerly the Father and Son anticipate the upcoming literal marriage between Christ and His Bride (Ephesians 5:21-33).

The Greek word translated conformed in Romans 8:29 means “jointly formed,” or “fashioned like unto.”

If we are to be fashioned like unto our Head, and are called according to God’s purpose, then it is fitting that we thoroughly understand what that purpose is, because only then can we be fashioned accordingly.

The Second Adam

God revealed something very inspirational to the Church in Corinth through the Apostle Paul. Some of the brethren in Corinth had gotten so caught up in this present evil world that they completely lost sight of God’s future world! (1 Corinthians 15:19). They were falling into a trap Mr. Armstrong described in Mystery of the Ages: “The creation is material, visible, and therefore seems real. The system of modern education has become entirely materialistic. The modern scientific concept denies the invisible and the spiritual as having existence. Yet all our seemingly unsolvable problems and the evils in this world are spiritual in nature” (emphasis added).

Then Paul compares two Adams—the first one brought death into this world; the other brought resurrected, spirit life! (verse 22). “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (verses 20-21).

There is a time order to what God is doing (verse 23). He marked out a 7,000-year plan to carry out His supreme purpose. God’s plan gives everyone their chance to receive this spirit life through the second Adam—Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to describe this process. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (verse 44). First the physical, then the spiritual. “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (verse 45).

Adam had the opportunity to take of the tree of life. He could have qualified to replace Satan on Earth’s throne. He failed, so Jesus—the second Adam—came to qualify to replace Satan and reestablish the government of God on Earth. Only then could the plan of God succeed.

God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and man became a living soul—a physical, breathing creature that is only temporary without the life of God in him (Genesis 2:7). Notice, God formed the man first and then instructed Adam, even before creating Eve (verses 16-17).

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (verse 18). The word meet in the Hebrew means “part opposite; specifically a counterpart, or mate.” Even more than a help, the woman is the man’s complement. Understand that marriage is not the end goal. It is the beginning of aiding, helping and completing one’s spouse.

Adam was the original one. The entire human family started with him. This becomes crucial as we continue to study the purpose of our calling as firstfruits. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “God created the physical man in dual stages. First, he created one man—a male human. It was in God’s supreme purpose that the man reproduce his kind. But the man was unable to do that—until God completed the human creation physically by the addition of a woman, made from the man. So God anesthetized the man and extracted a rib out of which he made the woman, named Eve. Then man’s physical creation was complete. Man could now reproduce his kind” (A World Held Captive).

Prior to Eve being made, Adam was incomplete physically.

Genesis 2:21-22 show that God then made the woman out of the man. There was great symbolism in God’s choice: He didn’t raise up more dust out of the ground—He took a rib out of Adam’s body.

“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (verse 23). The Hebrew word for woman [ishshah] is simply the feminine equivalent of the word translated man [iysh].

Of all the creatures God made during those six days in Genesis, only human beings were created this way—the man first and then the woman out of the man. Notice the uniqueness of the relationship God intended these male and female human beings to have—a relationship not intended for any other created beings! “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). With the very first pair of human beings, God instituted the marriage relationship. Mankind has married ever since the very first couple—and only because God ordained it. Only human beings were created to marry and have a family relationship.

So, because our first parents were literally of one flesh, we, too, should leave our parents—at the right time and for the right reasons—and cleave unto our spouse in marriage and become one flesh! The Hebrew word for cleave means to “cling or adhere.” Elsewhere, the word is translated to “take” or to “stick.”

One Flesh

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for [any] cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:3-4). The Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus Christ. His response in verse 4 was to ask: “Have you not read?” After all, it is right there in Genesis 2. God says that because He made Adam and Eve as one, we too should marry and become one flesh.

“… For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (verse 5). Because God made them male and female, because God created sex, He ordained the marriage institution.

Why did God make them male and female? God is neither male nor female. Yet both the man and the woman were created in God’s image.

“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (verse 6). No more two, but one—one flesh. Who makes a couple one flesh? It is God, not any man, who joins the husband and the wife as one flesh. With Adam and Eve, God Himself performed the marriage ceremony and underscored the sacredness and also the permanency of the marriage union by literally making the woman out of the man’s physical body!

These two were to actually function as one—to be one flesh in marriage. And to make sure there would be no confusion as to His purpose for this divinely inspired union, God made the first married couple from one human body!

Being one flesh really means to be one spiritually. God really is talking about one spiritual body.

The Body of Christ

The second Adam qualified to replace Satan, and God raised Him to eternal spirit life. And the same God who has raised up Christ says He will raise us up (1 Corinthians 6:14). But notice how Paul continues: “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? …” (verse 15).

The Greek word for members here means a “limb or part of the body.” Again God is talking about spiritual oneness. Each member is to be one in Christ. But how can that be? How can we be a limb or organ of Christ’s own body?

“[S]hall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid” (same verse). The city of Corinth was steeped in sexual perversions. That is why Paul brought up the subject—to remind us that our bodies belong to Jesus Christ. “What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh” (verse 16).

As Paul states and as Mr. Armstrong taught in The Missing Dimension in Sex, there is also a physical dimension to this: A man and a woman become one flesh through sexual intercourse. That act between a man and a harlot is condemned by God. But in Genesis 2 and Matthew 19, that same act is commanded to husbands and wives. God wants us to take this “one flesh” command seriously. He really means one!

One of the divine purposes for sex is to express the deepest and most binding expression of marital love and devotion, outgoing concern for the one loved.

God created it for the purpose of bringing two together as one. Mr. Armstrong likened it to the glue that binds a marriage. At least it should serve that purpose. “Sex in marriage,” he wrote, “far from being a sin, is ‘what God has joined together.’ It is a holy and sacred relationship!  … God’s principle [is] of giving, sharing. … God does not speak of it in terms of carnal taking, or receiving sensual gratification—but in terms of giving love” (Missing Dimension in Sex).

Functioning as one person—one flesh—holds excitement far beyond the physical. Yet God gave it as a means to keep Satan from being able to divide or separate that oneness (1 Corinthians 7:5).

“But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). There is an exact type here. Do we passionately long to be joined unto our Lord and Master? When God first created Adam, he was incomplete both physically and spiritually. When God made Eve out of Adam’s own flesh, that completed Adam’s physical creation. If Adam had taken from the tree of life, he could have ultimately been complete spiritually. God’s Holy Spirit would have joined with the spirit in man, actually becoming one spirit with God! (Romans 8:16).

Paul continued, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy [Spirit] which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). This is why our bodies were created. This is why God created us with the human spirit—so that it might bridge the gap between us and God. God said that from the beginning, He made mankind male and female. But He did that so He could make them something else—so they could be married. And marriage points us to the marriage to Jesus Christ! This is really an important way we are created in God’s image—through marriage. Not that it is wrong to remain single (1 Corinthians 7:1), but God wants human beings to have the opportunity to experience a type of that spiritual oneness.

From the time of Genesis 3, at the beginning of man’s society, the human family was kidnapped by Satan the devil. Jesus Christ shed His own blood in payment for the ransom—and when He did that, we became His! (1 Corinthians 6:20). It is as if we went from being owned by the kidnapper to being owned by the One who paid the ransom.

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Now here is an astonishing truth that the world simply cannot understand. Brethren in God’s Church have been baptized into the one Body of Jesus Christ! In fact, we are that Body! We don’t go to Church, we are the Church.

Mr. Armstrong explained: “How could the Church be the Body of Christ? I searched. I studied. God’s Word made the truth plain. God started His gospel Work—proclaiming the gospel (good news) of His Kingdom through the individual human body of Jesus” (Tomorrow’s World, October 1969). Keep in mind that Jesus Christ came to start a whole new world—an entirely different civilization from what we see on Earth right now. In Jesus Christ’s one body—in His life on Earth—God’s Family got started!

“But after His resurrection, Jesus sent the same Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, a.d. 31, and thereafter, to enter into the collective body of those constituting God’s Church. The Church, then, is the collective Body Christ uses as His instrument, empowered by God’s Spirit, to carry on God’s Work. Jesus Christ heads and directs it from heaven!” (ibid).

To be baptized means to be immersed. We are plunged right into the Body of Jesus Christ, to function exactly the way the Head directs us to (Romans 8:9).

“And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (verse 10). Here is the significance: When we are plunged into the Body of Christ at baptism, the old man dies, and the new life that emerges from that watery grave actually comes out of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ comes again in our flesh! (1 John 4:2).

Ephesians 5:23 discusses Christ and the Church as the main subjects. Jesus Christ is the Head over all within this Church. “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (verses 24-25). This is the way God intended it to be from the very beginning. There has to be structure and organization in a marriage and family, just as there is in God’s Family.

Marriage indeed is a natural union, but a divine institution—it reflects the union of the Father and the Son.That means one flesh, one mind, one Spirit; and yet two completely different roles.

God forecast that there would be real confusion about the roles of husbands and wives at this end time (Isaiah 3:12). The collapse of Israel is closely tied to the collapse of the marriage institution in the Western world today. The matrimonial bond actually saves nations.

Marriage is also the backbone of God’s Church. It takes two deeply converted people to put themselves together as one, but when it is done correctly, it is so obvious and clear that it simply cannot be done any other way! It is the only way that will bring happiness.

Soon Jesus Christ will return to the Earth to rule all nations (Revelation 19:6). Notice how His rule is tied directly to His marriage to the Church (verse 7). The Church is that wife! Verse 8 teaches us that it is righteousness that prepares us. We become ready by submitting to our Husband.

Unless our marriage with Christ is right, our physical marriages are never going to be as good as they ought to be. Really, this is at the heart of the deepest knowledge God has ever revealed to His people. It is the God Family vision!

Jesus Christ will present the Church to Himself a glorious Church changed from matter to spirit, from human to divine (Ephesians 5:27). Right now, He is cleansing us so that we may be free from blemish (verse 26). “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (verse 28). This is because the two become one flesh, as Paul goes on to point out. “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (verse 29).

The subject here being one flesh, Paul states: “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (verse 30). Remember Genesis 2:23? “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31). “[B]ecause of the coming marriage (spiritually) between Christ and the Church—because the Church is, now, the affianced Bride, engaged to marry Christ—for this reason, God ordained the marriage institution for humans! But not for animals! Not for angels!” (Missing Dimension in Sex). This is what God had been trying to teach man from the beginning. But what a mystery it is to the carnal mind. Indeed, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (verse 32).

God is a Family, and He is reproducing Himself through marriage! All of those future children to be born into the God Family come from the marriage of the second Adam to the second Eve—Jesus Christ and the Church!

Philippians 2:5-9 show us the kind of servant we all ought to be, especially in marriage! There really are two servants in a godly marriage. Each of us needs more of the mind of Christ to become totally unified as one flesh. Marriage is not a 50/50 relationship. Both partners need 100 percent of Christ’s mind. Only then will it work as God designed.

God hates anything that would separate two from being one flesh. “Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4; Revised Standard Version). We died at baptism, leaving behind our oneness with the world. What a blessing it is to understand the deep spiritual meaning of how the unique creation of Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs typifies how the Church must be built out of, and become one flesh with, her Husband Jesus Christ.

One flesh is the very foundation of the marriage union. It’s how God builds nations. It’s how God is building His Church, the firstfruits. And it’s how your marriage will be successful and happy.