||Getting Ready For The Wedding
~By Dr. Charles Halff~
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3).
To those who read the Bible, these are familiar words of promise from Jesus to His Church. But do you know that they are also the words of a Jewish bridegroom to his bride?
If we examine the words and customs of a Jewish marriage in the days of Jesus, we find that He used just such terms to portray His coming as the Heavenly Bridegroom for His Bride--the Church. It is a glorious promise!
Now, look with me into ancient history--to Jewish marriage customs, for in them we shall see some profound prophetic implications applying to the Lord Jesus and His Church.
Jewish Marriage Customs--The Jewish Bridegroom Seeks His Bride
In Bible days, when a young Jewish man chose his bride-to-be, he traveled from his father's house to her home to discuss betrothal--the first major step in establishing the marriage covenant. There he negotiated with her father the purchase price he would pay (called in the Hebrew tongue the mohar) to make her his own.
Once the bridegroom paid that price, the marriage covenant was established; and the young man and woman were regarded as promised to one another-husband and wife. From that moment the bride was declared "sanctified," or set apart exclusively for her bridegroom. As a symbol of this established covenant relationship, the groom and the bride would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been prayed.
After establishing the marriage covenant, the bridegroom would leave the bride's home and return to his father's house, where he remained, separated from his bride for a period of days, weeks, and months. Before he left her, however, the bridegroom made his bride this special promise: "Let not your heart be troubled . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . and . . . I will come again."
During their time apart, the groom built a bridal chamber in his father's house, preparing for their coming marriage day. Also during this time, the bride prepared her wedding dress, gathered her trousseau, and made herself ready to be the wife in married life with her beloved groom when he returned. All through this waiting time, the bride wore a veil as a symbol of her consecration to her groom alone. She would not be seen or known by strangers.
When all was ready, the groom, with his best man and groomsmen, would lead a nighttime torchlight procession to the bride's home, where he would receive his bride and take her to be with him. Though the bride expected her bridegroom to come at any time, she did not know the exact day or hour when he would appear. His only warning of arrival was a shout--alerting the bride that it was time at last to come out to meet and greet her groom.
Then the groom, with his bride and the entire wedding party, returned back to his father's house, where they found that the father had prepared a great marriage feast for all his wedding guests. Soon after arrival, the bridegroom and bride were escorted by wedding party members to the bridal chamber (Hebrew: huppah). The bridegroom and bride went together into the bridal chamber to enter into their first physical union, consummating their covenanted marriage. The best man waited outside the chamber, listening for the groom's prearranged signal.
When the marriage was consummated, the groom signaled the best man (John 3:29), who told the good news to the wedding guests; and all rejoiced and feasted in a seven-day marriage celebration. During that celebration, the bride remained hidden in the bridal chamber. When the seven days were completed, the groom brought his bride out of the bridal chamber (with her veil removed) so that all could see her.
Christ and His Bride: The Heavenly Bridegroom Seeks His Bride
What do these Jewish marriage customs mean to you and me today? Why recall or study them at all? Because they give us an exciting "wedding portrait" of our blessed Saviour and His Bride-the Church! No less than ten major statements in New Testament Scripture refer to Jesus Christ the Son of God as the "Bridegroom," and to the Church as His "Bride." It is the most magnificent and beautiful love story anywhere in the pages of prophecy. And we who belong to the Saviour, who are the "Bride of Christ," eagerly and expectantly await the return of the Bridegroom.
To begin with, let us establish that Jesus Himself is the Bridegroom. In Matthew 9:15 (see also Mark 2:19-20, Luke 5:34-35) our Lord makes it abundantly clear that He is the Bridegroom: "And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast."
Again, in John 3:29, John the Baptist refers to "the bride" and "the bridegroom." Then, just hours before His Cross, in John 14:1-3, Jesus made that great and precious promise of the Heavenly Bridegroom to His Bride. His promise is the "blessed hope" of the Church. The Bible makes it abundantly clear also that the Bride of Christ is the Church. Ephesians 5:23 speaks of the marriage relationship as a picture of Christ and His Church. Notice: ". . . the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."
The Bride of Christ is that vast body of believers who in these last 2,000 years have received Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord. Consider another passage from Paul's pen, where he told the Corinthian believers: ". . . I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2).
So, who is the "Bride of Christ"? Obviously, Church-age believers belonging to Christ are His Bride. Now, read John 14:1-3 again, and remember what Jesus said in that powerful promise passage. Jesus chose the Church to be His Bride. Just as the Jewish bridegroom left his father's house to seek his bride, so Jesus left His Father's house in Heaven and came to earth 2,000 years ago to select His Bride.
The Jewish groom paid a price to purchase his bride, and Jesus paid a price to purchase His Bride. The price He paid was His own life. He said, ". . . I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). Also read Matthew 20:28 and 1 Peter 1:18-19. Once the marriage covenant was established, the Jewish bride was set apart exclusively for her groom. Likewise, the Church has been sanctified, or set apart exclusively, for Christ (Eph. 5:25-27; 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:11; Heb. 10:10, 13:12).
Another interesting contrast is this: The cup of wine at the Jewish wedding was symbolic of the marriage covenant by which the Jewish groom obtained his bride. And the cup of communion that we drink is symbolic of the New Covenant through which Christ has obtained the Church (1 Cor. 11:25).
Just as the Jewish groom returned to his father's house after the marriage covenant had been established, so Jesus left the earth and returned to His Father's house in Heaven after He had established the New Covenant and rose from the dead (John 6:62, 20:17).
Just as the Jewish groom and bride were separated for a time, Christ has been separated from the Church for over 1,900 years. The Church is now living in that period of separation.
Just as the Jewish groom spent time preparing living accommodations for his bride in his father's house, Jesus has been preparing living accommodations for us in His Father's house in Heaven (John 14:2). As the Jewish groom came to take his bride to live with him at the end of the period of separation, so Christ will come to take the Church to live with Him at the end of this Church Age (John 14:3).
Just as the coming for the Jewish bride began by a torchlight procession of the groom and groomsmen from the groom's father's house to the home of the bride, so the taking of the Church will be accomplished by a procession of Christ and an angelic host from the Father's house in Heaven to the earth (1 Thess. 4:16).
Just as the Jewish bride did not know the exact time of the groom's coming, the Church does not know the exact time of Christ's coming. In the same way that the Jewish groom's arrival was preceded by a shout, so Christ's arrival to take the Church will be preceded by a shout (1 Thess. 4:16).
Just as the Jewish wedding party found wedding guests assembled in the groom's father's house when they arrived, so Messiah and the Church will find the souls of Old Testament saints assembled in Heaven when they arrive. These friends of the bridegroom will serve as the wedding guests. Just as the Jewish groom and bride entered into physical union after they arrived at the groom's father's house (thereby consummating the marriage that had been covenanted earlier), Jesus and the Church will experience a great spiritual union after their arrival at the Father's house in Heaven.
Just as the Jewish bride remained hidden in the bridal chamber for a period of seven days after arrival at the groom's father's house, the Church will remain hidden for a period of seven years (the Tribulation) after arrival at the Father's house in Heaven. While the seven-year Tribulation Period is taking place on earth, the Church will be in Heaven--totally hidden from the sight of those on the earth.
Just as the Jewish groom brought his bride out of the bridal chamber at the conclusion of the seven days so that all could see who the bride was, so Christ will bring the Church out of Heaven at the end of the seven-year Tribulation Period, so that all can see the identity of the true Church (Col. 3:4).
What Does It Mean To Us Today?
These beautiful comparisons between the Jewish marriage and the coming of our Bridegroom teach us many things, but the most important is to be ready for our Bridegroom's coming. We are ready positionally when we receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour, but are we ready in our daily walk?
What does the coming of the Bridegroom mean to you? Do you love Jesus Christ as much now as when you took Him to be your Saviour? Is He the One who gives meaning and purpose to your life? Are you being faithful in your commitment to Him? If not, rededicate your life to your wonderful Saviour and Bridegroom so that you can be ready for the hour of His coming.