"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 14:2-3)
The idea of God's relationship to man as similiar to the relationship of husband and wife has been taught extensively in the Old Testament. Christ, in the parable of the ten virgins, likened His relationship to the Church as the bridegroom coming for the bride. In answer to the Pharisees' question, "Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?" Christ refers to Himself as the bridegroom saying, "Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?"
At and prior to the time of Christ, in the ordinary Jewish marriage processions, the bridegroom, accompanied by his groomsmen and friends, went to the bride's house, and thence conducted the bride into his own or his parents' home.
It is noteworthy that, according to Edersheim (Vol. i, p. 352), the marriage conveyed to the Jews much higher thoughts than merely those of festivity and merriment. The pious fasted before the marriage, confessing their sins. It was regarded almost as a Sacrament. Entrance into the marriage state was thought to carry the forgiveness of sins, and the bridal pair on the marriage day symbolized the union of God with Israel.
In the Jewish community, the germ of the idea of the sacrament was present, and the marriage ceremony was planned to bear the impress of sanctity.
The bridegroom would travel from his home to the home of the bride, in order to negotiate the purchase price of his bride. This price, refered to as the "mohar", had to be paid prior to any other events relating to the marriage. Once paid, the marriage covenant was established, and the man and woman were, for all intents and purposes, considered to be husband and wife. From that moment on, the bride was declared "consecrated" or "sanctified"---set apart exclusively for her bridegroom.
In comparison, Christ left heaven, His Father's house, and came to earth, the home of His bride, to pay the price for a lost humanity. The "mohar" was His life's blood. Christians are redeemed by His blood. Ephesians 1:7 states, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Peter also mentions that, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things...but with the precious blood of Christ..." (1 Peter 1:18,19)
The groom obtained his bride through the establishment of a marriage covenant. In the same manner, Christ came to the earth to establish a covenant. This covenant, foretold in the Old Testament by the prophet Jeremiah, was established the same night He gave the promise to His disciples. It is the New Covenant established by the shedding of His blood on the cross.
When the price had been paid, the Jewish bride was considered sanctified---set apart exclusively for her husband. The Church, too, has been declared sanctified, set apart exclusively for Christ. In Ephesians Paul teaches, "Husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." Even Corinth, the most carnal of churches addressed in the New Testament, was considered sanctified. The author of Hebrews says we are all sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.
As a symbol of the covenant relationship which had been established, the groom and bride would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been pronounced.
In the Jewish ceremony a shared cup of wine served as a symbol of the marriage covenant. In the Church today the communion cup is the symbol of the covenant established by Christ to obtain His bride.
Once the marriage covenant had been established, the groom would leave the home of his bride and return to his father's house. He would remain separated from his bride for an indefinite period of time, usually not to exceed twelve months. During this time both the groom and the bride had specific preparations which had to be accomplished prior to the wedding ceremony.
With the establishment of the marriage covenant and the payment of the "mohar" accomplished, the groom would return to his father's house to accomplish the necessary preparations. Christ, after paying the price, also departed to His Father's house to make preparation. The promise of His return in John 14 includes His preparation on our behalf when He said, "I go to prepare a place for you". Christ's separation is also for an indefinite period of time, and the Church is now living in this period of separation. The Church is meant to keep busy spreading the gospel and maturing in relationship with Christ.
The groom was required to prepare living accomodations for him and his new bride. This customarily involved building an addition to his father's house large enough for the two of them to live in. The strong family ties inherent in the Jewish culture of Christ's day normally precluded the building of a separate house away from the family. The groom's preparations would include not only the structure, but also everything needed to set up a household. He would provide all that he could afford in order to offer his bride the most comfortable and pleasant living accommodations possible.
The groom's father had to inspect the building of the bedchamber and living accomodations, and approve of the building, before the groom could go and get his bride. Because of this, the groom did not know beforehand exactly when it would be approved, and therefore never knew exactly when he would be able to go and get his bride, until his father gave him the go-ahead.
The bride, in anticipation of her married life, would busy herself with getting ready. Traditionally, during this separation, her mother would teach her all things necessary to fulfill her marital responsibilities. It was a time spent in close fellowship as both recognized their new roles.
For the Christian, the Holy Spirit is the teacher and the One Who works to bring the believer to sanctification.
As stated earlier, the groom would be separated from his bride-to-be for an indefinite period of time, usually not exceeding twelve months. Once he had prepared the household and everything was ready for his bride, the groom would prepare himself for the wedding ceremony. He would call his closest friends and inform them of his immediate intentions so that they, too, could prepare for the wedding procession through the town.
The taking of the bride usually occurred at night. The groom and his friends would form a procession and, with lighted torches, they would proceed through the town so that all the townspeople would be aware of the wedding. Then, they would proceed to the home of the unsuspecting bride. The bride, even though anticipating the return of her groom, would never know exactly when he was coming for her and therefore, had to be constantly prepared for his return.
Just as the Jewish bride had no idea when her groom would return for her, the Church today has no idea when Christ will return.Paul tells us as he told the Thessalonian believers, "This day will come as a thief in the night."
In the taking of the bride in the Jewish ceremony, the groom was accompanied by a procession of his friends. Christ will also be accompanied by a procession of an angelic escort.
The procession would hush themselves before arriving at the home of the bride in order to surprise her, and the groom would announce his return with a shout.
Christ will return for His bride in like manner. It will undoubtedly be at night for some and day for others as we are told by Paul it will occur in the twinkling of an eye. Christ's presence will be made known by a shout also. Paul tells us through his letter to the Thessalonians, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel..." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
The bride would then join the procession through the town to her new home prepared by her husband. She would be wearing her wedding gown and her face would be veiled. The wedding guests would already be in attendance when the bridal pair arrived. Presumably, these guests had heard the procession and went straight to the house to help prepare for the wedding feast.
Similar to the Jewish bride returning with her husband to his father's house, the Church will return with Christ to heaven. In this way we will inhabit the heavenly dwelling place prepared specifically for us by Christ in heaven. And we will find the souls of the Old Testament saints there as guests to celebrate with us. When the Church is taken to the Father's house in heaven we will enter into spiritual union with Christ, thereby consummating the relationship which Christ covenanted with the Church 2000 years ago. The bride's face would be veiled. Similarly, Paul said, "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
The bride's garment is white as snow.
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1: 18)
"And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (Revelation 6:11)
"Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:13-14)
Shortly after their arrival the bridal pair were escorted by their closest friends to the bridal chamber, referred to as the "huppah". These friends making up the wedding party would then wait at the door while the couple consummated the marriage, entering into physical union for the first time. This would finalize the marital agreement which had been covenanted earlier. After the consummation the groom would step out and announce to the wedding party that the marriage had been finalized and completed.
Directly after the groom made his announcement the wedding feast would begin. This feast would last seven days and was called the seven days of the "huppah". During this time the bride and groom were waited on by their friends and all meals were taken in the bridal chamber. Upon completion of the week they would emerge from the bridal chamber and the bride would now be unveiled for all to see.
When the groom came to take his bride to his father's house, she went veiled, for it would have been considered improper for her face to have been seen in public. The Jewish bride remained veiled until she was in the "huppah", the bridal chamber. In like manner, the Church, during this age, does not know exactly who the other members of the Church are; as Paul says, "we see through a glass darkly." When Christ takes us to heaven though, we shall see each other as face to face.
Just as the Jewish bride remained hidden in the "huppah" for a period of seven days, so will the Church remain hidden for a period of seven. Both Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament give the exact amount of time for this period. This is the time period of Daniel's seventieth seven. It is the period referred to in Revelation as the Tribulation. Revelation gives the exact number of days for the last half of this time period.
At the close of the wedding feast, the groom would proudly escort his bride out of the bridal chamber. She would now be unveiled for all to see, in full view. So Christ will bring the Church out of heaven at the end of the Tribulation period in full view of all who are left alive. Paul told the Colossians of this event in these words: "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:3,4)
The analogy between the Jewish marriage customs and the relationship Christ has with the Church is a beautiful one and full of significance. It shows the believer the sequence of events which have led up to the present time of separation between the Church and Jesus Christ, and gives the believer hope for the return of Jesus Christ and the re-establishment of the close personal relationship Christians will share with Him throughout eternity.
It is also significant in what it teaches about our present relationship to the risen Christ. In the Jewish analogy, it was possible for the Jewish bride to commit adultery. In the absence of her husband-to-be, she could do this by giving herself to another man. Even though the actual wedding ceremony had not yet taken place, this was still considered adultery. Today, it is possible for the believer to commit spiritual adultery in the absence of Christ. Paul expressed his concern over this issue when He wrote to the Corinthians and said:
"For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid, lest as the Serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:23)
James also was concerned about the same thing when he wrote that friendship with the world is hostility toward God. The context here seems to indicate one commits spiritual adultery when he becomes more devoted to the godless world system than to Jesus Christ and the things that please Him.
So, the significance to be applied personally, is to evaluate your relationship to the risen Lord and determine what it is He would have you to do in His absence. Determine whether He remains the center of your life and whether you are anxiously awaiting His return. Ask yourself if He is controlling your every desire and thought, or if your relationship to the world is of more importance.
If you have been unfaithful in your relationship to Him, you can be confident He will forgive you of those actions if you confess them and ask for His forgiveness. II Timothy 2:16 affirms His faithfulness toward us despite our actions. If we earnestly seek a closer walk with Him and desire Him to rule in our lives, we will readily admit our failure to remain pure. But upon confession, we can be assured the Holy Spirit will renew our devotion and we can wait for His return confidently.
Secondly, to the unbeliever, if you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you have absolutely no part in the foregoing analogy. If you do not establish a relationship with Jesus, you cannot become a part of His bride, the Church. You will not take part in the reunification. Christ died on the cross for your sins. By His shed blood on that cross he paid the price for your sins also. You can enter into this relationship by admitting your need for a Savior and by accepting Him as that Savior.
Trivia: The wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because of the ancient belief that a vein in the fourth finger led straight to the heart. The Romans called this the “vena amoris” or “vein of love.”
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