www.ariel.org/ff00113c.html The Jewish Wedding System and the Bride of Christ The Jewish marriage system that was common in Jesus’ day corresponds to God’s program regarding the relationship between Yeshua HaMashiach (the Bridegroom) and the Church (the Bride of Christ). I. THE ARRANGEMENT The first step in the Jewish wedding system was the arrangement, in which the father of the groom arranged the match with the father of the bride and paid him the bride price. This stage could occur when the bride and groom were yet children, and often the betrothed would not even meet each other until the day of the wedding. The application to God’s program is that God the Father, the Father of the Groom, made the arrangement and, then, paid the bride price. The bride price was the blood of His Son. As Ephesians 5:25 states: Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; And in John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, ... By giving up the Son and shedding the blood of the Son, the bride price was paid and, so, the arrangement was sealed with blood. II. THE PREPARATION The second step in the Jewish wedding system was known as the preparation. This was the period of the betrothal. It lasted for at least one year but could last much longer if, for example, the arrangement was made when the bride and groom were children. During the period of the preparation, the bride was prepared to be a fitting wife for her mate. It was also the period of time in which she was observed for her purity, which is why the betrothal always lasted for a minimum of one year - to allow at least a full nine months to pass to make certain that the bride was a virgin at the time of the betrothal. If she gave birth before the year ended, then it became known that she was in a state of immorality. The application of the stage of the preparation to the Bride of Christ, the Church, is that the Bride is even now in the process of being perfected for the Groom. Two passages deal with this stage. The first is II Corinthians 11:2: For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy; for I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ. Paul states that the Church has been espoused, or betrothed, to one husband. The goal is that she might be presented a pure virgin to Yeshua. She is now in the period of preparation to take on the role of wife to her husband. When that day comes, she will be presented as a pure virgin to Christ. The second passage is Ephesians 5:26-27: ... that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. According to verse 26, the Church is now undergoing a process of sanctification. The word “sanctification” means to be set apart. The Church, then, is now being set apart to eventually be presented a pure virgin to Yeshua, in accordance with II Corinthians 11:2. Furthermore, verse 26 points out that she is being cleansed by this means of sanctification, which is by the washing of the water with the Word. It is not by water baptism, but by the water of the Word of God. As the Church becomes more and more conformed to what the Word of God teaches, she in turn becomes more and more the virgin to be presented to Him. Verse 27 follows, giving the purpose for the process of sanctification in verse 26. The purpose for this process of sanctification is to present to Jesus Christ a glorious Church. He then gives the four characteristics of a glorified Church. First, it will have no spot, meaning that there will be no outward defilement. Second, there will be no wrinkle, meaning that there will be no evidence of age. Third, it will be holy, meaning that it will eventually reach full sanctification. Fourth, there will be no blemish, no inward defilement. This will take place ultimately, finally, at the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ, when the members of the Church in this judgment will have the wood, hay and stubble burned away and the gold, silver and precious stone purified by that fire of judgment. This glorious Church is simply another way of saying what Paul said in II Corinthians 11:2, that the intent is to present the Church as a pure virgin to Christ. Here, it is put in terms of being presented as a glorious Church. Then, in verse 29, Paul reveals the one way that the Church is being made into a glorious church: ... for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church; The Church is being nourished, meaning that it is being built up and given strength. Moreover, the Church is being cherished, meaning it is cared for with warmth and tenderness. III. THE FETCHING OF THE BRIDE On the wedding day, according to the Jewish wedding system, the groom would leave his home and go to the bride’s home to fetch her. As the groom returned to his own home with the bride, this would lead to a bridal procession such as the one found in Matthew 25:1-13. (As described in this passage, the virgins - who go out to meet the groom as he is returning home with his bride - do not represent the Church.) The application to the fetching of the Bride of Christ is the Rapture of the Church, as depicted chiefly in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. In verse 13, the question is asked, “What about dead saints? Will they miss out on the benefits of the Rapture? Will only living ones benefit?” Paul states that they will not miss out on the benefits of the Rapture but, in fact, that they will begin to receive these benefits even before the living believers (vv. 14-15). Then, in verses 16-17, he spells out the seven steps in which the Rapture will occur. First, Yeshua will come from Heaven into the earth’s atmosphere and, in that sense, will enter into the realm of the home of the bride. Second, He will then give a shout. The Greek word used here refers to a military command, and, so, He will issue the command as a military general does for the process to begin. Third, the voice of the archangel will sound. The archangel is Michael, who is pictured here as the sub-commander repeating the order of the chief commander. The fourth stage is the sound of the trump of God. The trumpeter issues his calls so that the soldiers know what to do: to attack, retreat, go forward, right, reverse, etc. Fifth, the dead in Christ will rise first, which is why the dead will not miss out on the benefits of the Rapture; they will receive it first by being raised first. Sixth, those who are alive will be caught up or raptured to meet Messiah Jesus in the air. Seventh, the believers will ever be with the Lord. From the point of rapture, the believers will be with Him forevermore because He is their husband. Verse 18 is, then, a word of comfort for those of us who have believing friends and/or relatives who have passed away . . . someday, they will be resurrected. And if we are alive at that point, we will join them in the Rapture. It is after the fetching of the Bride into Heaven that the final point of cleansing and sanctification comes. In I Corinthians 3:10-15, we learn of the Judgment Seat of Christ, when the wood, hay, stubble will be burned away and the gold, silver and precious stone will be purified. According to I Corinthians 15:50-58, the Church will, indeed, be glorified, because, at that point, mortality will put on immortality and corruption will put on incorruption. IV. THE CEREMONY The Jewish ceremony was conducted in the home of the groom. Only a few - usually the immediate family and two witnesses - were invited to come in and observe the wedding ceremony. The application of this fourth step to the relationship of the Church as the Bride of Christ is that there will be a ceremony in Heaven, and the few that will be invited to this ceremony are the few that will already be in Heaven. Only those who have already been resurrected will be able to participate in the wedding ceremony. The main Scripture describing this is Revelation 19:6-8. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty reigneth. Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. The three central points regarding this Revelation passage are: 1) The marriage of the Lamb is come and will occur in Heaven just prior to the Second Coming; 2) The wife has made herself ready and is now glorified without spot, wrinkle or blemish; and, 3) She is arrayed in fine linen to represent the righteous acts of the saints. Thus, the Judgment Seat of Christ is completed, as is the sanctification process, and she is, indeed, a pure virgin now being presented to Christ at this wedding ceremony. The ceremony takes place in Heaven and is followed by the invitation to the marriage feast, the Second Coming of Christ, and, then, the marriage feast on earth. V. THE MARRIAGE FEAST Whereas only a few were invited to the Jewish wedding ceremony, many more were invited to the marriage feast - to celebrate the marriage of the son. The divine invitation to the wedding feast is sent out as the Tribulation comes to an end, just before the Second Coming. Following the Revelation 19 passage referred to earlier in regard to the wedding ceremony, we learn about the invitation (v. 9). And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The marriage supper of the Lamb is not served at this point, but the invitation is issued. Then, the Second Coming is described (vv. 11-16), followed by a 75-day interval (Dan. 12:11-13) during which both the Old Testament and Tribulation saints (the “many more”) will be resurrected to partake of the wedding feast. The application to the Church as the Bride of Christ is seen in that relatively few attended the ceremony (which was held in Heaven) compared to the “many more” who will attend the marriage feast (which will take place on earth). This is so because the Old Testament saints - to be resurrected during the 75-day interval after the Tribulation (Is. 26:19; Dan. 12:2) - will join the few who already attended the ceremony. In John 3:28-30, John the Baptist classified himself as being neither the Groom nor any part of the Bride, but rather included himself in a third category known as the friend(s) of the Bridegroom. The friends of the Bridegroom are the Old Testament saints, and these will comprise the many more invited to the wedding feast. A second group that will not be at the ceremony but will attend the marriage feast is the Tribulation saints, who will also be resurrected after the Second Coming (Rev. 20:4-6). In addition to the resurrected saints, the wedding feast will include Gentiles who actually lived through the Tribulation. The Lord will gather all these Gentiles in the Valley of Jehoshaphat and judge them individually on the basis of their demonstration of faith in aiding and protecting the Lord’s brethren (the Jews). He will then bid the “sheep Gentiles” on His right, “Come, you who are blessed . . .” (Mt. 25:31-46). And, of course, there is also the Remnant of Israel, of whom the Scriptures say, All Israel shall be saved. These are living Jews who survived the Tribulation to comprise the fourth group attending the wedding feast. These four groups (the many) plus the Church/Bride (the few) will all attend the wedding feast, thus ushering in the Kingdom. The fact that the Kingdom begins with the wedding feast is taught by Isaiah 25:6. In the context of the Kingdom, the prophet writes: And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. The Kingdom, then, will begin with the marriage feast. And just as the typical Jewish wedding feast could last for as many as seven days, even so this grand wedding feast might last for seven days or, perhaps, even seven years. [The Kingdom on earth is ruled by Yeshua for 1,000 years, with believers reigning with Messiah as His bride (Rev. 20:4).] VI. THE HOME OF THE BRIDE In the Jewish context, the groom was responsible to provide a suitable home for the bride. He did so during the preparation stage, the second stage as described earlier. One of Yeshua’s purposes when He returned to Heaven at the Ascension was to prepare a place for the Bride, as revealed in John 14:1-3: Let not your heart be troubled: 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; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. That place is elsewhere known as the New Jerusalem. And herein lies the application: that Jesus is even now preparing a suitable home for the Church, and the believers will move into that home in the Eternal State, in the Eternal Order. The principal Scripture revealing this is Revelation 21:9-22:5, where John is able to see the home of the Bride. Verses 9-10 state: And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, ... According to verse nine, the Bride is now also the wife of the Lamb, because by this time the wedding ceremony and the wedding feast have taken place, and they have been married for a thousand years. After the thousand year Kingdom, John next sees the eternal home of the Bride (v. 10), and the eternal abode of the Bride is the New Jerusalem. Next, he spells out the details of the New Jerusalem (21:11-22:5), which will be the home of the Bride.