This Is Long But Well Worth The Read !!!
A CHRISTIAN LOVE STORY
The Glorious Future of the Believer!
(Understanding the Rapture, through the Jewish Wedding!)
By Zola Levitt
Our Lord was Jewish and He did things like a Jew. So often, if we consult the Jewish law and custom, we find many of the motivations for particular actions of our Lord.
In this book, we will consider the Jewish custom of matrimony. Obviously, wedding customs varied from nation to nation and from time to time. Even in today’s world we see different additions of marriage taking place at the same time in different countries. The Jews had their own peculiar ways, based on the Old Covenant, and the Lord, as we shall see, followed those traditions in choosing a bride.
We should appreciate that the Jews had no dating or courtship as we now think of those things. Marriage to them was a practical legal matter, established by contract and carried through by exacting procedure. These customs exist in a form today in the Jewish wedding ceremony, and in Jesus’ time they were most fascinating and complex.
When the young man of Israel in Jesus’ time saw the girl he wanted (or the girl his father said he wanted), he would approach her with a marriage contract. He would come to her house with a covenant – a true legal agreement – giving the terms by which he would propose marriage. The most important consideration in the contract was the price the bridegroom would be willing to pay to marry this particular bride.
Then the groom would pay the price. It should be said that this price was no modest token but was set so that the new bride would be a costly item – that was the idea. The young man had no delusions that he was getting something for nothing. He would pay dearly to marry the girl of his choice.
When that matter was settled the groom would depart. He would make a little speech to his bride, saying, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and he would return to his father’s house. Back at his father’s house, he would build her a bridal chamber, a little mansion, in which they would have their future honeymoon.
We should appreciate that this was a complex undertaking for the bridegroom. He would actually build a separate building on his father’s house. The bridal chamber had to be beautiful –one doesn’t honeymoon just anywhere; and it had to be stocked with provisions since the bride and groom were going to remain inside for seven days (7 years for the bride of Jesus!). This construction project would take the better part of a year, ordinarily, and the father of the groom would be the judge of when it was finished. (We can see the logic there – obviously, if it were up to the young man, he would throw up some kind of modest structure and go get the girl!). But the father of the groom who had been through this previously and was less excited, would be the final judge on when the chamber was ready and when the young man would go to claim his bride.
The bride, for her part, was obliged to do a lot of waiting. She would take the time to gather her trousseau and be ready when her bridegroom came. Custom provided that she had to have an oil lamp ready in case he came late at night in the darkness, because she had to be ready to travel at a moment’s notice. During this long period of waiting, she was referred to as “consecrated”, “set apart”, “bought with a price”. She was truly a lady-in-waiting, but there was no doubt that her groom would return. Sometimes a young man would depart for a very long time indeed, but of course he had paid a high price for his bride; even though there were other young women available, he would surely return to the one with whom he had made a covenant.
The bride would wear her veil whenever she stepped out of her house so that other young men would realize she was spoken for and would not try to approach her with another contract. (Today, the Bride of Christ wears a veil – those not understanding of our covenant try to make other contracts with us that would violate the one we have with our Bridegroom. We are to resist those other offers and wait only for the One Who paid for us.)
As the year went on, the bride would assemble her sisters and bridesmaids and whoever would go with her to the wedding when the bridegroom came, and they would each have their oil lamps ready. They would wait at her house every night on the chance that the groom would come, along with his groomsmen, and sweep them all away to a joyous and sudden wedding ceremony.
Meanwhile, the bridegroom would be building and decorating with all that he had. His father would inspect the chamber from time to time to see if it were ready. If we came along the road at this point and saw the young man working on his bridal chamber, we might well ask, “When’s the big day?” But the bridegroom would answer, “Only my father knows that”.
Finally, the chamber would be ready and the bridegroom would assemble his young friends to accompany him on the exciting trip to claim his bride. The big moment had arrived and the bridegroom was more than ready, we can be sure. He and his young men would set out in the night, making every attempt to completely surprise the bride.
And that’s the romantic part – all the Jewish brides were “stolen”. The Jews had a special understanding of a woman’s heart. What a thrill for her, to be “abducted” and carried off into the night, not by a stranger but by one who loved her so much that he had paid a high price for her.
Over at the bride’s house, things had better be ready! To be sure, the bride would be surprised since the groom would try to come at midnight while she was sleeping. But the oil lamps were ready and the bride had her veil. And while she might be sleeping in her wedding dress, she was definitely surprised. It’s a wonder she would sleep at all as the year went on!
Now there were rules to be observed in consideration of a woman’s feelings. The groom couldn’t just rush in on her. After all, her hair might be in rollers! Actually, as the excited party of young men would get close to her house, they were obliged to give her a warning. Someone in the wedding party would shout.
When the bride heard that shout, she knew her young man would be there momentarily. She had only time to light her lamp, grab her honeymoon clothing and go. Her sisters and bridesmaids who wanted to attend also had to have their lamps trimmed and ready, of course. No one would try to walk through ancient Israel, with its rocky terrain, in the dark of night without carrying a lamp.
And so the groom and his men would charge in, grab the girls and make off with them! The father of the bride and her brothers would look the other way – perhaps just making one quick check to see that this was the young man with the contract – and the wedding party would be off. People in the village might be awakened from their sleep by the happy voices of the young people carrying the oil lamps through the streets, and that’s how they knew a wedding was going on. Today, we hear car horns – back then, they saw the lamps late at night. Those looking on would not know who the bride was because she was still wearing a veil, of course. But she would be returning through these same streets a week later with her groom and then her veil would be off. At the return of the bride with her bridegroom, all the people would know just who got married and they would realize the total significance of this wedding.
When the wedding party reached the house of the groom’s father, the bride and groom would go into their chamber and shut the door. No one else would enter. The groom’s father, meanwhile, would have assembled the wedding guests – his friends – and they would be ready to celebrate the new marriage. Since the wedding was actually going to take seven days (until the appearance of the bridge and groom out of the chamber), it was hard to plan for. Occasionally, the host would run out of wine, as we can well imagine. The Lord Himself graced a wedding at Cana with His presence and replenished the wine for the celebrants as told in John 2.
But the celebrating wouldn’t start right away. First, the marriage had to actually be consummated. The Jews were a most law-abiding people and the law provided that the bride and groom become one before their marriage was recognized. Thus, the friend of the bridegroom – the individual we might refer to as “the best man” – would stand near the door of the bridal chamber, waiting to hear the bridegroom’s voice. When the marriage was consummated, the bridegroom would tell his friend through the door and the friend would then go to the wedding guests and announce the good news. The celebration would then begin and it would continue for an entire week!
At the end of the week, the bride and groom would make their long awaited appearance to the cheers of the crowd. There would then be a joyous meal – a marriage supper, which we might refer to as the wedding reception – to honor the new couple. At this point, the bride would have discarded her veil, since she was now a married woman, and all would see exactly who it was the bridegroom had chosen. The new couple and the guests would enjoy a magnificent feast to conclude the entire matrimonial week.
After the marriage supper, the bride and groom would depart, not remaining any longer at the home of the groom’s father. They would go instead to their own house, which had been prepared by the bridegroom. (The Bride of Christ will spend seven years in heaven at the home of the groom’s Father, and then we shall return with our Bridegroom to occupy the Kingdom He has prepared for us.)
As the bride and groom would travel back through the village, it would be appreciated by all onlookers just who the couple was and where their permanent home would be.
And that was a complete Jewish wedding in Jesus’ time, in all its glory. Readers of the Gospel can easily see the beautiful analogies between this complex procedure and the manner in which the Lord Himself called out His chosen Bride. We will review below each of the elements of the Jewish wedding, along with the Scriptures that explain them.
Perhaps there is no happier Bible study than this one!
The Church is called “the bride of Christ” in the New Testament for good reason. It is we who have a covenant relationship with the One Who forgives sins. It is we who drink the cup with Him, and we for whom the price was paid. We are the ones to whom He said, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and we are the ones who now await His sudden return.
Our covenant, in all its fullness, was expressed by the prophet Jeremiah:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jer. 31:31-34).
Paul repeated the same covenant in Hebrews 8:8-12, for the benefit of the bride.
We can see very plainly that these verses constitute a contract. Terms are given and the parties identified. The Lord made His covenant with “the house of Israel and with the house of Judah”, but it is continued to all of those who are the spiritual seed of Abraham and follow the Jewish Messiah. The New Covenant is written in our hearts, in a very real sense. It is not like the Old Covenant given to Moses, as explained in verse 32 above. That covenant was etched in stone and totally inflexible and unbreakable – the punishment for breaking it was death. The New Covenant comes out of a love relationship – we obey the Lord today because we love Him, not because we fear Him – and thus the New Covenant is a matter of the heart.
God purposely contrasts the New Covenant with the Old in order to make the point that He would forgive our iniquities and forget our sins under the new arrangement.
This is the most striking term of the New Covenant – that our sins are forgiven and forgotten. That certainly wasn’t true under the Mosaic law. The people might in effect “file sacrifices” against their sins so that when the Messiah came He would retroactively take that into consideration and forgive them (Romans 3:25). God went along with an unregenerate people, knowing that forgiveness would be provided when the Messiah paid the price as the final sacrifice. But we are not in the same position. The price has already been paid for our sins, so that every last one of them is totally forgiven.
Some believers don’t like this concept, and indeed much of the Church spends much of its energy acting as if the Covenant read, “I will forgive you only if you’re good.” There is a great deal of pretense among the believers that each of us is sinless, or very nearly sinless. But the fact of the matter is, God knows well the hearts of men and has provided a different system for us than He did in the Old Covenant. We are not responsible to be sinless; we are responsible only to believe in the Messiah, Who was sinless in our place and paid for our sins.
We might look at the New Covenant as a “gift certificate” for salvation. When one gives you a gift certificate, you need only to take it to the store and present it; there will be no charge for the merchandise. It’s not that the merchandise is free, but that someone has been there ahead of you and paid for it. When you get the merchandise home, you may misuse it, if you wish. You may take gifts provided for you by the one who bought your certificate and damage them, or fail to appreciate them. That would be a shame, of course, but it certainly wouldn’t cause the buyer of your gift certificate to come to you demanding the return of the merchandise. In the case of the New Covenant, God, the store owner, has agreed to provide you the merchandise of salvation in return for the gift certificate purchased for you by His Son. It’s as simple as that!
Well, then, you may ask, can I sin as much as I like and still be saved? Paul covered that case when he said, “Shall I sin more that grace may abound?” He made clear that we are not to take our salvation as a license – that would be as bad as damaging the free gift we have received – but, in point of fact, our salvation has been paid for in advance. We can only thank God for this arrangement under which we common sinners can achieve the glory reached by Christ Himself. We would certainly never make it on our own merits.
Verse 34 above will be fulfilled in the Kingdom of the Lord, when everyone will certainly know the King. He will reside in Jerusalem in the Tabernacle for 1,000 years and it will no longer be necessary for people to teach “every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord’ ”. When this particular wedding is completed, it will be a happy marriage indeed!
The New Covenant is like a contract also in the respect that it is signed and dated. In the verse following those quoted above, God presents His signature to this contract:
Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is His name (Jer. 31:35).
There’s no doubting whose signature that is!
Now we find a date, as we do on all contracts:
If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever (v. 36).
God says plainly that His covenant will go out of date when Israel ceases to be a nation. Clearly, our covenant is still in force because Israel is a nation today and has really never ceased to be a nation. If all the Jews would perish – if those who wanted to exterminate the Jewish people ever had their wish – then it is apparent that the New Covenant would go out of date and forgiveness would not be available to anyone. The very presence of the Jews among us is the sign of the New Covenant; it is still in force and every sin of every person who believes is still forgiven.
The Jews are, in this one way, a most special people. As God promised His friend Abraham:
And I make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Gen. 12: 2-3).
But in case anyone would doubt that Israel will survive, the Lord adds a footnote in the next verse:
Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord (Jer. 31:37).
Obviously, Israel is as secure as the secrets of how the universe is put together. If anyone could tell God how He has set up in heaven and earth, He would then cast off the seed of Israel, He says. It’s virtually the same argument God used with Job when that worthy one came before Him with questions. God inquired, “Where was thou when I laid the cornerstone of the earth?” as if to say, “Seeing that you ask such intelligent questions, I am sure that you understand as much as God does.” That settled who Job was and who God was, and the verse quoted above should settle once and for all any question about the survival of Israel and the Jewish people.
And thus we have our marriage contract and it is an advantageous contract for the bride indeed. Note the language used in Jeremiah 31:32: “Which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord.” God could very well have been angry enough with Israel that He would have chosen a different bride for His Son. He says, in effect, “I tried to marry them before, but they broke the marriage contract.” Nevertheless, in His forgiveness, God makes this covenant again with Israel, sending His Son to that nation and the Holy Spirit to that people. And Israel, in turn, sent the Messiah to the world through Jewish missionaries who built the churches of Asia. And the contract God has made is a real stunner – He has agreed that should the Bride sin this time, He will forget about it!
It is as if the bridegroom came forward and said to his bride, “I’ll pay the price for you and drink the cwith you, and go to prepare the place for you and if you happen to stumble in the year that I am away, I’ll just forget it. If I hear, while I am building the bridal chamber, that you were not waiting for me at home but had even gone out with another man, I will just forget about it. If you try to break my covenant, I will not allow it to be broken. I will pay for all your sins myself!”
Here, we have a bridal contract unbreakable by the bride. How could God possibly make such a contract?
Well, we might say this: The price was very high.
And so, Jesus came to His own, the people of Israel, prepared to pay that high price. He came with the New Covenant, to sign it with His blood. The expression, “signed in blood”, is thoroughly biblical. When God made covenants in the past with Abraham, Moses and so forth, He had animals sacrificed and the blood sprinkled to ratify the covenant. Jeremiah had only prophesied the advent of the New Covenant; Christ came to sign it and present it.
We see Him drinking the cup with His Bride in Matthew 26:27. It was the Passover table that the Lord did this so appropriately. He was to die that day (the next morning actually, but the Jewish day begins at sundown). He took this last opportunity to drink the cup with His Bride and seal the New Covenant:
And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matt. 26: 27-28)
Looking at verse 27, we might ask, “What did the Lord say when He gave thanks?” Any Jew can tell you – there is just one Jewish blessing over the wine and it has been said for all time.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
The fruit of the vine, ultimately, is the Church. Jesus said that He was the true vine, and the disciples were the branches. Finally, we become the fruit in this figure, and this brings out the toast aspect of this cup. Jesus praised the Creator for bringing forth this Bride and He toasted the Bride for becoming the true fruit. Then He told all the believers to drink this cup so that they would answer His proposal affirmatively and become His promised Bride.
In verse 28, He announced that the cup was His blood of the New Covenant (“testament” and “covenant” are the same word), and that it is shed for the remission of sins. Obviously, this fulfilled Jeremiah’s announcement of the New Covenant – the covenant which would forgive sins. It’s interesting to consider that the New Testament itself is our copy of the contract. Should anyone accuse you of sin, you need only show him your copy of the contract to prove that your sins are forgiven. Should the devil himself accuse you, and Satan is the “accuser of the saints”, quoting the terms of the New Testament will settle the matter. You are “bought with a price”. Your next responsibility after receiving the Bridegroom is to go about, in proper modesty with your veil, honoring the covenant you have made, in the manner of a virgin bride awaiting her promised bridegroom. You are not to make further sacrifices to impress God. Jesus made it very clear that this one sacrifice – this one cup – would be sufficient to forgive everyone’s sins, all the way up to the Kingdom of God:
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom (v.29)
We are responsible to God for good works. We are more than a bride; we are also workers in a field. But insofar as our salvation goes, it has been bought and paid for and we cannot lose it or enhance it in any way according to this contract.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).
How much did our Bridegroom pay? We all realize that our Lord went to the cross for us and that this was painful, humiliating and so insulting to the Son of God. But do we fully appreciate how much it cost Him?
After all, it could be argued that Jesus was a strong young man, able to walk 75 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem. No one would want to be crucified, but He suffered only six hours. People with cancer die slow, lingering deaths; some of us are born with handicaps we must bear a lifetime. Did Jesus really pay that much?
To find the real value of something, we must ask the purchaser. To people who are very rich, a Cadillac or a fur coat is a small expenditure. To the poor, those things are extremely expensive. Jesus Himself commented on how much He was paying in the following verses:
And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and His disciples also followed Him.
And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed.
Saying, Father, if Thou are willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done (Luke 22:39-42).
This prayer took place right after the Passover supper, when the Lord retired to the Mount of Olives near the Temple site. He told His disciples, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation”, which any bridegroom might well have said to his bride. “Be sure you wait for me, darling, I’ll be back before you know it. Don’t get tempted!” many young bridegrooms must have told their betrothed as they departed.
Then Jesus held a private conversation with His Father, saying, “If Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me.” This must also have happened from time to time in the old Jewish wedding custom. Many a bridegroom probably returned to his father after learning the price for a particular bride and asked his advice on whether he should pay it. “Do you realize how much they want for her?” must have been a question repeated often in the old tradition. The Jewish bridegroom was wise enough to know that his father’s judgments in these matters were trustworthy, and he would consult his father about the amount to be paid.
And here we see Jesus clearly expressing that if His Father were willing; the cup should be removed from Him. Of course, like the respectful Jewish bridegroom of old, He trusts His Father’s judgment and said, “Nevertheless, not My will but Thine, be done.”
We get some inkling of how high a price the purchaser was paying in this case from this passage – but we’re to learn more further on.
In this case, the Bridegroom’s Father’s will is very clear:
And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him (v.43).
And now we see the verse that expresses most plainly of all what the purchaser thought of the price:
And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it was great drops of blood falling down to the ground (v. 44).
Now when Jesus actually went to the cross, we might think His Father had special mercy on Him. It normally took three days for a person to die by crucifixion. The condemned one would hang there morning and night as people passed by, dying by inches. He would be naked, suffering from a flogging and in total agony until his life seeped away. How was it that this Carpenter, in fine physical condition, was dead in just six hours?
That question has been asked from time immemorial, but a simple consultation of the order of the Jewish feasts answers it perfectly. In Leviticus 23: 5-6, we have God’s placement of the first two feasts of the Jewish year, Passover and Unleavened Bread:
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s Passover.
And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
The symbol of Passover is the sacrifice of the lamb, and Jesus fulfilled it on the cross. The symbol of Unleavened Bread is the body of the Lord buried in the earth (“if a kernel of wheat fall into the ground…”, “This bread is My body”). Thus, to fulfill the second feast, the Lord had to be buried at the beginning of Unleavened Bread, or at sundown on the day of Passover. He was placed on the cross at 9:00 in the morning and taken down at 3:00. Sundown in April in Israel is about 4:30 or 5:00, and thus the Lord was buried exactly in time to commemorate the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
And so the fulfillments progress through the rest of the feasts. First Fruits, which we now call “Easter”, came on the following Sunday (Lev. 23: 10-12), and indeed the Lord rose as the first fruits of those to be resurrected (I Cor. 15:22-23). The fourth feast is Pentecost, 50 days later (Lev. 23:15-16), and the Lord sent the Holy Spirit in a great harvest. Three thousand people were saved that day, just as 3,000 people were killed on the day the Law came. They had made a golden calf and the Lord was infuriated:
And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men (Exodus 32:28).
But when the Lord sent the Holy Spirit, He returned to Israel exactly 3,000 souls. The Lord is a good bookkeeper, and indeed, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (II Cor. 3:6).
Thus the Lord performed exactly in accordance with the first four feasts of Israel. He will do the same in the future, it is clear. We expect the Rapture of the Church on the fifth feast, the Feast of Trumpets (I Thess. 4: 16-17). We expect the return of the Lord to the earth for the start of the Kingdom on the Day of Atonement, when “all Israel will be saved” (Zech. 12:10, 13:1; Romans 11:26). And finally, the Lord will setup His Tabernacle in Jerusalem appropriately enough on the final feast, the Feast of Tabernacles. The tabernacles hark back to the shelters the Lord gave the children of Israel in the wilderness, and indeed the Lord’s Tabernacle will shelter us on this earth for the duration of the Kingdom. These final three feasts are explained in Leviticus 23:24, 27 and 34, respectively.
We say all of that above to show that the Lord, Who never omitted a Jewish feast, fulfilled each one even in His crucifixion and burial, as well as in His resurrection, His sending of the Holy Spirit, His return at the sound of the trumpet, His second coming on the day when Israel atones, and His establishment of His Kingdom on Tabernacles. Thus, it is valid that the Lord had to come off the cross in six hours for the simple reason that He was a law-abiding Jew and He had a feast to keep.
What is significant is that Jesus paid the full price. He could have called a legion of angels to avoid the cross, or He could have been brought down from the cross in even a shorter time than six hours. His Father might have arranged for Him to have a more merciful death than a flogging and a public crucifixion. But the fact is, He accepted His Father’s will, was crucified and remained on the cross as long as was lawful for Him to do so.
A full knowledge of the price paid for us must inspire us to live up to the expectations of our Bridegroom. Any time the Jewish bride felt tempted to break her contract, it is certain that a mere reading through of the terms would remind her that her bridegroom had paid a great deal and was trusting her to keep her side of the bargain. If we read our contract often and understand it completely, we can more likely glorify our Bridegroom as we wait for Him.
We saw in the Jewish wedding custom that the bridegroom would depart to his father’s house after he made the covenant, drank the cup and paid the price. Likewise, our Lord went on to His Father’s house with an announcement to His disciples virtually in the same words, as the Israeli bridegroom must have used:
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).
Jesus is in heaven now, preparing our place, and we are in the waiting period. True, we grow impatient for His return, but then imagine how impatient that young bride must have been! People who plan to be married don’t like waiting around, especially if they can’t even see each other! Probably, in the old days, there were a few violations during the waiting period and people must have thought they had a violation in the case of Joseph and Mary. Those two were “espoused” (betrothed), not married, and Mary became with child. It was not that serious a matter to the onlookers, since undoubtedly this situation had occurred before, the Jewish wedding being what it was. But Joseph, at least at first thought Mary had violated their marriage contract in a most grave manner, and he sought to “put her away”, or cancel the contract. Or course, the angel revealed the true situation and Joseph and Mary went on to be married.
In our case, we have been waiting a long time. But we must continue to wait in a manner that would gratify our Bridegroom. The veil worn by the bride is simply our good testimony before the world. Our consecrated, set-apart ways speak to the unbelievers around of our loyalty to God and our agreement to marry His Son. Paul put it very strongly when he said simply, “You are not your own”.
We must all fully realize, as we wait, that the Lord is coming. The bridegroom always returned. We hear many a sermon on the Lord’s return but we falter in our walk, reasoning that if He didn’t come last year or last week, He probably won’t come tonight. But there will be a night when the Lord will come, and He requires that we be ready and waiting. We can believe that the Jewish bride waited at home every night and trusted constantly in that marvelous night when she would at last hear the shout.
The return of the Lord for His Bride, the Church, is the most clear in the Scriptures:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (I Thess. 4:16-17).
Here we see the shout and also the sound of a trumpet.
We have already discussed the trumpet in connection with the dramatic Feast of Trumpets, which symbolizes the Rapture. But we might look further into that peculiar biblical symbol to fully appreciate its significance. The Rapture of the Church will be a kind of repeat performance. God had previously delivered His Chosen People into their Promised Land when Joshua led the Israelites against Jericho. The walls of Jericho have been found: they were 11 feet thick! How were the weak and wandering tribes of Israel, with their old men, women and children, going to assault this frontier city, so well prepared for just such an attack? Well, we realize what weapons they used and we realize a great truth thereby:
And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him (Josh. 6:5).
What a comparison that verse makes with the Rapture of the Church. Indeed, “the people shall ascend up”! The clincher of the type is the name of the leader. We don’t often appreciate that “Jesus” is a transliteration of the real name of our Lord. His name in Hebrew was “Yeshua”, which translates in English to “Joshua”. In both cases, then, God used the trumpet to deliver His people to their Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. Other Scripture explaining the fact of the Rapture also mentions the trumpet:
Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (I Cor. 15:51-53).
Indeed, as Paul exalted:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 55-57).
We shall not die, it should be explained. We all received our eternal life the moment we were saved. We may die physically, but “the dead in Christ will rise first”. We shall live on with the Lord in His Kingdom and eternity. Our Bridegroom has indeed prepared a wonderful place for us. How marvelous that “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”.
Now when the Lord comes for us, we are to have oil lamps ready and waiting. Oil in the Bible is the Holy Spirit, and we are to have the oil and be ready to travel even in the dark of night. The parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25: 1-13) is correctly applied to the Kingdom, but has marvelous application to this wedding story. In that parable, there were ten virgins “which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom”.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps (Matt. 25: 2-4).
The bridegroom in this parable acted in accordance with the Jewish tradition of totally surprising the bride and catching her asleep:
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept (v. 5).
But then he comes with a shout:
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him (v. 6).
We will see by the ensuing verses that only those virgins with their lamps trimmed with oil were able to go with the bridegroom. The others, suddenly realizing that they were not properly prepared, went out to purchase oil, but they were too late:
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
But He answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not (vs. 10-12).
The message is very clear: We must be filled and baptized with the Holy Spirit – (we must be true believers in the Lord Jesus) – to go with Him when He comes!
The oil was established as a very essential ingredient as far back as the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness:
And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause lamp to burn always (Exodus 27: 20).
We can learn a great deal from the above Scripture. We are just like the lamp stand in the Tabernacle. We are set aflame once when we believe in the Messiah, but as we walk, we must constantly take in the oil – the Holy Spirit – in order to keep our flame burning brightly. The flame is a beautiful symbol of the Christian faith. With one flame I can light all the candles in the world and mine will not be diminished.
Understanding the symbol of the oil and the symbol of the trumpet as well, we are in a position to see how powerful we really are in this world. Gideon went forward with only 300 men and attacked a force of Midianites totaling over 100,000! Gideon, like the U.S. Marines, came forward with “a few good men”, but the Lord had armed these soldiers in a special way. Remarkably, they won that battle with their peculiar attack:
And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon (Judges 7:20).
Armed with God’s symbol of deliverance, the trumpet, and the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the oil in the lamps, Gideon’s army prevailed over the pagans. God had chosen to have Gideon attack with such a small force so that the glory would certainly go to Him. And likewise, we carry the Holy Spirit in the same sort of pottery jars used by Gideon’s men:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us (II Cor. 4:7).
When we break the earthen vessels that are our earthly bodies, the light pours out of us and the oil within convicts the unbeliever. We are a small army, like Gideon’s but outfitted with God’s special weaponry, we are invincible in this spiritual battle.
But we must be absolutely certain that we have the oil –the virgins with the empty lamps could not go into the bridal chamber with the Lord. The Lord Himself concluded that parable:
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh (Matt. 25:13).
There are a lot of empty lamps around. There are huge churches where the Holy Spirit is never mentioned nor the Word of the Lord preached. They are lamps with no oil. They shall hold services as usual on the Sunday after the Rapture.
THE BRIDAL CHAMBER
How is our seven years in heaven with the Lord (while the Tribulation Period takes place on earth) like a honeymoon? Actually, what the Lord has prepared for us is called by a rather fearsome name in the Scriptures:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the thing done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (II Cor. 5:10).
We are going to appear before our Lord to review the things each of us did in his earthly service. This judgment concerns our works, of course, and not our sins, which were paid for in advance.
Paul is very clear on what will happen in the judgment seat of Christ. He points out that the only reasonable foundation one can lay in this life is that of Christ, and then he goes on to give the particulars of how our works are judged:
For other foundations can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
Every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is (Cor. 3: 11-13).
The Lord will put a torch to our works. Those that are of the precious metals will not be harmed, but the wood, hay and stubble will be burned away. We will be duly rewarded for our good works:
If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward (v. 14).
And we will suffer losses of our rewards for the works that are burned up:
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire (v.15).
Note he last two phases in the above verse. Even I we have a great many bad works and therefore few rewards, we still shall be saved. We shall survive this fire of judgment. God has fire that does not consume, such as in the lake of fire or in the burning bush seen by Moses. God’s purpose in this judgment seat of Christ is not to burn us up, but merely the works unworthy of the bride of Christ. We ourselves will be saved.
How is this like a honeymoon? Well, a honeymoon is where the bridegroom removes his bride’s veils and knows all of her secrets. We will be spiritual creatures when we meet Christ, since “we shall all be changed”, and so our Bridegroom will examine our spiritual secrets. Some honeymoons indeed are not as joyful as we might have expected, married people can tell you, but we’re there with someone we love and when all is said and done, we become marriage partners through the experience.
Now that peculiar moment when the bridegroom tells his friend that the wedding is consummated is also in the Gospel. It has to do with that great friend of Jesus, John the Baptist. It seems the Pharisees were approaching him time and again and asking if he were the Messiah. From the passages, we can gather that they wished he were the Messiah – they could get along better with a Messiah who lived by the Dead Sea and ate locusts and honey than with the Carpenter of Galilee, who did so many miracles. If John were the Messiah, then they could muddle through. It was that mild – mannered young preacher from rustic Nazareth they could not seem to abide. In one of their dialogues, John, seeming to almost lose patience with them, uses this very special moment in the wedding ceremony to illustrate his point. He told them:
Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.
He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled (John 3: 28-29).
Perhaps John, an Old Testament saint killed before the cross, and a dear friend of our Bridegroom’s Father, will serve this function in our wedding in heaven.
THE MARRIAGE SUPPER
When the wedding guests get the good news from the chamber, they celebrate. Who will be the wedding guests at our marriage to the Lord?
Well, in keeping with the tradition, they will be the friends of the Bridegroom’s Father – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets, and His many other friends from the great days of the Old Covenant. How magnificent it will be to greet all those saints when we come out of the chamber and sit down to our marriage supper!
Perhaps Daniel will sit by Jeremiah, and he will say “You know, I read your book!” Daniel indeed read the Book of Jeremiah and gathered most important information from it (Dan. 9:2; Jer. 29:10). Perhaps it would be a good idea if we would read the Book of Jeremiah and the other books of our wedding guests before we go on to the reception!
Only a little space is given in the Bible to the magnificent culminating event of the marriage supper of the Lamb:
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints (Rev. 19: 7-8).
We shall be arrayed in “fine linen, clean and white”, which the priests wore in the Tabernacle of old as a sign of their consecration to God. Indeed, at this time we shall be perfect; we shall be as perfect as Jesus Christ. Our sins were forgiven at the cross, our bad works were done away with in the judgment seat, and we are now presented spotless and without blemish to the Lamb as a fitting wife. The Scripture quoted above is so accurate, utilizing the term “wife” instead of “bride” at this point, since we are then married to the Lord.
We rejoice in being the Bride of Christ now, but imagine the joy we will have as the Queen of the Kingdom to come!
After our marriage supper, we shall depart with the Lord to return to this earth in the manner that the bride went to the house prepared for her by the bridegroom. We shall not dwell in His Father’s house any longer, but will leave heaven to occupy our Kingdom.
When we return we shall have our spiritual veils off, and the entire world will fully realize who the Bride of Christ was and why we acted as we did.
The return of the Lord to the earth is given in glorious terms in the Scriptures. John’s writing becomes breathtaking:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself.
And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God.
And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And out of His month goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations; and He shall rule them with a rod of Iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And He hath on His vesture and His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Rev. 19: 11-16)
It is the church that is viewed in verse 14 above. We temporarily come as an army in order to put a stop to the battle of Armageddon, which will be in progress on earth at the moment we return.
Once Armageddon is taken care of, we shall see the judgment of those who lived during the Tribulation Period, and the rewarding of those who refused to receive the mark of the Antichrist, but instead were martyred for their faith in Christ:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4)
The unbelievers, however, will be bound 1,000 years, until the final judgment:
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (Rev. 20:5)
John exults over the fact that we are blessed to take part in this first resurrection and to reign with Christ through the Kingdom Age:
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priest of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6)
More details were given by the Lord during His earthly ministry about this judgment, which serves as an immigration office into the Kingdom. He means to take care of every single soul who existed during the seven years on earth, when the Tribulation Period was in progress. The Lord is so perfectly fair. All of the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the believers from the unbelievers “as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats”:
When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory:
And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth this sheep from the goats:
And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matt. 25: 31-34)
In reply, the believers will express surprise that they had so honored the Lord during the Tribulation Period, but He will make the matter very clear to them:
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40)
If the people of the nations of the world, even during the Tribulation Period, demonstrate faith in Christ by caring for his brethren (the 144,000 of Israel who witness during that hard time), they will be saved.
But the judgment is equal and devastating upon those who failed to honor the Lord during the reign of the Antichrist:
Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matt. 25: 45-46)
The Old Testament saints will be regathered as well at the beginning of the Kingdom Age, and so the kingdom will get under way with rather a mixed crowd, all having in common a sincere belief in the Messiah and King. There will be the faithful of the Old Testament, who waited so long for this grand age, the believers of the Church Age, who went to heaven in the Rapture, and finally the believers of the Tribulation Period, who will enter the Kingdom in their natural bodies. Since they did not come to faith before the Rapture, they were not changed and they remain as they are, still marrying and giving in marriage, unlike the believers of the Church Age. This latter group, the people in their natural bodies, will give birth during the Kingdom to ordinary, fleshly sinners, again “born of Adam.” It is these few on earth, in the Kingdom, who will occasionally disobey the Lord’s commands and make it necessary for Him to set penalties for failures of worship or sanctity (e.g., Zech. 14:16-19).
These mischief-makers in the Kingdom, having multiplied, will be rallied by Satan in the very last battle at the end of the thousand years:
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison.
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Rev. 20: 7-9)
This last rebellion of Satan is unsuccessful and the Great White Throne of Judgment is set up for all those who were confined with him, and the unbelievers of all ages:
And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20: 11-15)
This second death, then, is that which is avoided by the believers in Christ.
Of course, there are a thousand great years between our return from heaven with the Lord and that throne of judgment for the unbelievers. And this Kingdom Age, this great millennium, is the true reward of the church. We should go back and examine it.
The Kingdom will be quite a different age than we have now. Things will be socially “upside down”. It will be sophisticated to be a Christian then, and downright foolish to be an unbeliever. The King Himself shall reign in Jerusalem with us, the Queen.
We must turn to the Old Testament for knowledge of the Kingdom, since that’s where Jesus got His teaching. There was no New Testament, of course, at the time the Lord taught the disciples “the things pertaining to the Kingdom”, but the great passages of Isaiah and the other prophets make clear this magnificent age of God’s triumph. The New Testament assumed that everyone understood the Kingdom, since it had been already explained in the Old, and it virtually began with the Sermon on the Mount – the explanation of how one gets into the Kingdom and how the law of the Kingdom will be. The Beatitudes (Matt. 5, etc.) continue to inspire us as to that idyllic age of God’s total sovereignty over the earth.
Isaiah’s passages ring with beauty:
But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His month, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11: 4-9)
Nowhere in the Bible is the Kingdom ore concisely and more beautifully described than in Isaiah’s very brief Chapter 12. We quote it in full:
And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon His name, declare His doings among the people, make mention that His name is exalted.
Sing unto the Lord; for He hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.
Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
Isaiah 9: 6-7 will be fully realized (“Unto us a child is born…”).
We could go on and on in the other prophets with the marvelous descriptions of life on earth in the presence of the King. The theme of it will be the constant company of Jesus, the total triumph of the saints, and absolute justice and mercy throughout all the earth. This, again, is the reward of the true church.
After the Kingdom and the White Throne of Judgment, we are still not finished. The believers go on in the mysterious period known as eternity, about which little can be said since the Scriptures are very cryptic. God is going to change heaven, earth and Jerusalem – there will be no more seas – no more water and therefore no more life as we now know it. However, we shall continue to live on with the Lord in eternity under those strange new circumstances.
The Biblical writing becomes symbolic, almost incomprehensible, at the very end of the Scriptures as John describes his Revelation. We can sample the description of eternity as John saw it and wrote it for us in Revelation 21:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Rev. 21: 1-7)
One notable feature is that eternity will not have a Temple:
And I saw no Temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple of it. (Rev. 21:22)
We might surmise that no Temple is needed because there certainly need be no further sacrifice, and, in effect, no further worship. Everyone who then exists will be one with God, or so closely in touch with God that there would be no point to them having to contact Him through the medium of a Temple. The implication of the Scripture is that God Almighty and the Lamb may be approached directly in eternity.
Another interesting feature is that there will be a new kind of light. Light was virtually the first thing God made in creation, but now there will be no further need of the sun nor the moon because God and the Lamb provide all the light:
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. (Rev. 21: 23)
The most striking feature of eternity is that there will be not even the whisper of evil about it. While there was a certain amount of rebellion in the Kingdom, as we saw above, eternity will be utterly free of “anything that defileth”:
And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
And there shall be in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev. 21: 26-27)
And remember, this is only the beginning!
John, after seeing all these things, made the most logical conclusion, and one that all Christians might make. The thing to do, he felt, was to pray immediately for the soon coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. John the Apostle, a New Testament saint, a member of the church, awaited the Rapture fervently – as fervently as we ought to. The conclusion of the Bible is more than a fitting conclusion for this discussion. John’s final prayer must be our ultimate prayer. In view of all he had seen in this stunning Revelation of Jesus Christ, John uttered simply:
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Rev. 22: 20-21)