Behold the Bridegroom Cometh
Researched and presented by Rodney Bowden, CWMF-Brisbane, Australia.
Let not your heart be troubled: you 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 you may be also - John 14:1-3.
Jewish Marriage Customs
Those who live in the modern world do not catch the full significance of Jesus’ promise. This is due to the fact that in His promise Jesus was drawing an analogy from Jewish marriage customs in biblical times. Since this is so, these marriage customs must be examined if one is to grasp the significance of the promise.
The first major step in a Jewish marriage was betrothal. Betrothal involved the establishment of a marriage covenant. By Jesus’ time it was usual for the prospective bridegroom to take the initiative, by travelling from his father’s house to the home of the prospective bride, where he would negotiate with the father of the young woman to determine the price (mohar) that he must pay to purchase his bride. When the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was thereby established and the man and woman were regarded to be husband and wife. From that moment on the bride was declared to be consecrated or sanctified, set apart exclusively for her bridegroom.
As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been pronounced.
After the marriage covenant had been established, the groom would leave the home of the bride and return to his father’s house. There he would remain separate from the bride for a period of twelve months. This period of separation afforded the bride time to gather her trousseau and to prepare for married life. The groom occupied himself with the preparation of the living accommodations in his father’s house to which he would bring his bride.
At the end of the period of separation the groom would come to take the bride to live with him. The taking of the bride usually occured at night. The groom, best man and other male escorts would leave the groom’s father’s house and conduct a torchlight procession to the home of the bride. Although the bride would be expecting the groom to come for her, she did not know the exact time of his coming, so the groom’s arrival would be preceded by a shout to forewarn the bride to be prepared for the coming of the groom.
After the groom received his bride together with the female attendants, the enlarged wedding party would return from the bride’s home to the groom’s father’s house. Upon arrival, the party would find that the wedding guests had already assembled. Shortly after the arrival, the bride and groom would be escorted by the other members of the wedding party to the bridal chamber (huppah). Prior to entering the chamber the bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face. While the groomsmen and bridesmaids would wait outside, the bridegroom and bride would enter the bridal chamber alone. There in the privacy, they would enter into physical union for the first time thereby consummating the marriage that had been covenanted earlier.
After the marriage had been consummated the groom would announce the consummation to the other members of the wedding party waiting outside the chamber (John 3:29). These people would pass on the news of the marital union to the wedding guests. Upon receiving the good news, the wedding guests would feast and make merry for the next seven days.
During the seven days of the wedding festivities, which were sometimes called “The seven days of huppah”, the bride remained hidden in the bridal chamber. At the conclusion of these seven days, the groom would bring the bride out of the bridal chamber now with her veil removed so that all could see who his bride was.
Examination of the analogy
In the examination of the analogy the first thing that should be noted is the fact that the scriptures regard the church to be the bride of Christ (Eph.5:22-23).
In addition, just as the Jewish bridegroom took the initiative in marriage by leaving his father’s house and travelling to the home of the prospective bride, so Jesus left His Father’s house in heaven and travelled to earth, the home of His prospective church over 1900 years ago.
In the same manner as the Jewish bridegroom came to the bride’s home for the purpose of obtaining her through the establishment of a marriage covenant, so Jesus came to earth for the purpose of obtaining the church through the establishment of a covenant.
On the same night on which Jesus made His promise in John 14, He instituted communion as He passed the cup of wine. He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1Cor.11:25). This was His way of saying that He would establish a new covenant through the shedding of His blood on the cross. Parallel to the custom of the Jewish groom paying the price to purchase his bride, Jesus paid a price to purchase His bride, the church. The price that He paid was His own life blood.
It was because of this purchase price that Paul wrote the following to members of the church.
Don’t you know that you are not your own, for you are bought with a price therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit which are God’s - 1 Cor.1:2, 6:11.
In the same way as the cup of wine served as a symbol of the marriage through which the Jewish groom obtained his bride, so the cup of communion serves as a symbol of the covenant through which Christ has obtained the church (1Cor.11:25).
Just as the Jewish groom left the home of his bride and returned to his father’s house after the marriage covenant had been established, so Jesus left the earth, the home of the church and returned to His Father’s house in heaven after He had established the new covenant and had risen from the dead (John 6:62, 20:17).
Corresponding to the period of separation between the Jewish groom and bride, Christ has remained separated from the church for over 1900 years. The church is now living in the period of separation.
Parallel to the custom of the Jewish groom preparing living accommodation for his bride in his father’s house during the time of separation, Christ has been preparing living accommodations for the church in His Father’s house in heaven during His separation from His bride (John 14:2).
In the same manner 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 His church to live with Him at the end of His period of separation from the church (John 14:3).
Just as the taking of the Jewish bride was accomplished by a procession of the groom and male escorts 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 escort from Christ’s Father’s house in heaven to the home of the church (1Thess.4:16). Similar to the Jewish bride’s return with the groom to his father’s house after her departure from her home, the church will return with Christ to His Father’s house in heaven after she is snatched from the earth to meet Him in the air (1Thess.4:17, John 14:2-3).
In the same manner as the Jewish wedding party found wedding guests assembled in the groom’s father’s house when they arrived, so Christ and the church will find the souls of Old Testament saints assembled in heaven when they arrive. These souls will serve as the wedding guests.
Parallel to the custom of the Jewish groom and bride entering into physical union after their arrival at the groom’s father’s house, thereby consummating the marriage that had been covenanted earlier, Christ and the church will experience spiritual union after their arrival at His Father’s house in heaven thereby consummating their relationship that had been covenanted earlier.
Corresponding with the Jewish bride being hidden in the biblical chamber for a period of seven days after arrival at the groom’s father’s house, the church will remain for a period of seven years after arrival at Christ’s Father’s house in heaven while the seven years Tribulation Period is taking place on the earth. The church will be in heaven totally hidden from the sight of those living on earth.
Just as the Jewish groom brought his bride out of the bridal chamber at the conclusion of the seven days with her veil removed so that all could see who his bride was, so Christ will bring His bride out of heaven in His second coming at the conclusion of the seven year Tribulation Period in full view of all who are alive so that all can see who the true church is (Col.3:4).
The significance of the analogy
This analogy between Jewish marriage customs and Christ’s relationship to the church is very beautiful, but what practical significance does it have for today?
The answer to this question is twofold:
First if you have never taken Jesus Christ personally to be your Saviour from sin it has great significance for you.
Christ came to this earth and died on a cross for the purpose of paying the penalty for your sins. Through the shedding of His blood, He paid the price necessary to purchase you to be part of His bride the church. He thereby established a new covenant through which you can enter into a special relationship with Him. Every time the gospel of Jesus Christ is declared to you, Christ is proposing that you enter into this special relationship with Him. In essence He is saying to you,
I, Jesus, take you, sinner, to be my bride and I do promise and covenant before God the Father and these witnesses to be your living and faithful saviour and bridegroom in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in faithfulness and in waywardness for time and eternity.
Just as the proposal that the Jewish bridegroom made could be accepted or rejected, so Christ’s proposal to you can be accepted or rejected. If you reject it through this lifetime, then you never will be rightly related to Jesus Christ. The tragedy will be that you will spend eternity separated from God and Christ in the eternal lake of fire (Rev.20:11-15).
If however, you accept Christ’s proposal, then your sins will be forgiven and you will enter into that relationship that makes you part of His bride the Church. In addition you will go to be with Him when He comes to take the church and you will remain with Him forever in great blessing.
The way in which you can accept Christ’s proposal is quite simple. If you sincerely believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He came to this earth, died for your sins and rose from the dead, then respond to Him as follows:
I sinner, take you Jesus, to be my Saviour and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful bride, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow for time and for eternity.
Second, the analogy is most significant also for those who have taken Christ to be their Saviour. During the time of separation between the establishment of the marriage covenant and the coming of the bridegroom to take His bride it was possible for the Jewish bride to commit adultery by giving herself to another man. So in like manner it is possible for believers today to commit spiritual adultery against Christ before He returns to take His Church.
Paul expressed concern over this possibility when he wrote the following to Christians:
For 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, but I fear lest by any means as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds shall be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ - 2 Cor.11:23.
James expressed the same concern when he rebuked Christians as follows:
You adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God - James 4:4.
The context of James’s statement indicates that spiritual adultery is committed when a believer becomes devoted to the godless world system and the things that please it, rather than Jesus Christ and the things that please Him.
If you are a believer, honestly evaluate your devotion to Jesus Christ. Do you love Him as much now as when you took Him to be your Saviour? Is He truly the centre of your existence, the one who gives your life its meaning and purpose? Is your every attitude, action and lifestyle motivated and controlled by your devotion to Jesus Christ or by a desire to have the friendship of the world system in which you live?
If you have been faithful to your heavenly bridegroom confess this to Him and be assured that,
Even if we believe not, yet He abides faithful, He cannot deny Himself - 2 Tim.2:13.
Then trust the Holy Spirit to renew your devotion as you await your heavenly bridegroom to come at any moment.
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE & ITS AUTHOR
The above is an adaptation taken from JEWISH MARRIAGE CUSTOMS, an article by Dr. Renald Showers, Chairman of the Pastoral Studies Dept. Philadelphia College of the Bible. Distributed by, The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., W. Collingswood, N.J. used with permission - http://cetf.co/Vo3YCn