Behold the Bridegroom Cometh – New Testament Christianity The Bride Awaits Her Groom – by J. R. Church –
The church has been referred to as "the bride of Christ," and our Savior, in turn, has been called the "Bridegroom." It is a beautiful and magnificent love story found in the pages of the Bible. We who are in the bride of Christ anxiously await our Bridegroom.
Let’s review the marriage customs of the Jews and discuss some prophetic implications. When the young Jewish man chose his bride-to-be, he came to her home to discuss the matter with her father. This first major step in the Jewish marriage was called the "betrothal." It involved the establishment of a marriage covenant.
During the days of the Bible, it was customary for the prospective bridegroom to negotiate with the father of the young woman to determine the price that he must pay to purchase his bride. Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price (called in Hebrew the "mohar"), the marriage covenant was established. From that day, the couple were regarded as husband and wife. From that moment 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 was pronounced.
After the marriage covenant was established, the groom would leave the home of the bride and return to his father’s house. There he would remain separated from his bride for a period of several days, weeks, or months. This period of separation afforded the bride time to gather her trousseau and prepare for married life.
The groom occupied himself with the preparation of a bridal chamber (called in the Hebrew language, "huppah") to which he could bring his bride.
At the end of the period of separation, the groom would come to take his bride to live with him. The taking of the bride usually took place at night. The groom, along with his best man and the other groomsmen, would conduct a torch-lit procession to the home of the bride.
Although the bride and her attendants were hoping that the groom would come for her, she did not know the exact time of his coming. As a result, the groom’s arrival would be preceded by a shout. This shout would forewarn the bride to be prepared for the coming of the groom. By the way, that evening, her parents would manage to be gone, giving some excuse. She did not know that they had gone to the wedding.
After the groom received his bride (together with her bridesmaids or attendants) the enlarged wedding party returned to his father’s house. When the bride arrived, she would find her parents there. Shortly after their arrival, the bride and groom would be escorted to the bridal chamber by the other members of the wedding party.
During this time the bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face. Only the groom and his bride entered the bridal chamber. As soon as the marriage was consummated, the wedding guests would feast and make merry for the next seven days. During that week of wedding festivities, which were sometimes called the "Seven Days of the Huppah," the bride remained hidden in the bridal chamber.
At the conclusion of the seven days the groom would bring his bride out of the bridal chamber — with her veil removed — so that all could see who his bride was. Let us examine this ancient marriage custom and see how magnificently it provides a prophetic preview of the coming of our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ.
To begin with, let us establish that Jesus is the Bridegroom. That takes us to Matthew 9:15:
"And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast."
Aside from the details of the story, let us take note that Jesus referred to Himself as the Bridegroom.
Next let us establish who is the bride. For this we go to Ephesians 5:23-24:
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
"Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
Again, aside from the context, we can see that the bride of Christ refers to that vast body of believers who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
Consider yet another passage written by Paul the Apostle. Not only did he refer to the church at Ephesus as being part of the bride of Christ, but in II Corinthians 11:2 he referred to the church at Corinth as being members of the bride:
"For I am jealous over you with godly jealously: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
Who is the bride? Obviously, we are the bride.
When the Jewish man came to negotiate for his bride, he paid the "mohar" or price of betrothal. The comparison is made in I Corinthians 6:20:
"For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s."
Here we are reminded of the "Mohar." We are bought with a price. But the price of betrothal was not paid with silver or gold. We were bought with something far more valuable than that. It was Peter who wrote in his first epistle, I Peter 1:18,19, that we were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ — a Lamb without blemish and without spot.
So we are the bride, and we have been purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ. He has paid the price of betrothal.
When that price was paid (in the days of the Bible) a ceremony took place. The young couple sealed their covenant by drinking from a glass of wine over which a special benediction had been pronounced. In like manner our Bridegroom met with the disciples on the night before His death, took the wine and passed it among them. Matthew 26:27-29:
"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.
"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."
Our Savior established the betrothal covenant and promised that we would drink anew with Him in His Father’s kingdom. About midnight, they left the Upper Room for the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus went to pray and prepare himself to pay the price (the mohar) for His bride.
Alfred Edersheim in his book entitled Sketches of Jewish Social Life wrote on page 143, "The woman had to give her own free and expressed consent, without which a union was invalid."
In like manner there is no pressure put upon the unbeliever today — merely the invitation of our Savior to become a member of the bride. No pastor can force salvation upon an unwilling sinner, and Jesus Christ, Who loves you, will not force the issue. If you would be saved, it must be by your own free will.
In a footnote at the bottom of page 140, Edersheim gave an illustration. "A certain wise woman said to her daughter before her marriage, ‘My child, stand before thy husband and minister to him. If thou will act as his maiden, he will be thy slave and honor thee as his mistress. But if thou exalt thyself against him, he will be thy master and thou shall become vile in his eyes, like one of the maid servants.’"
No wonder the Lord Jesus Christ took the towel that night in the upper room and took a basin of water with which He washed the disciples’ feet. He made it plain that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven would be those who have made themselves servants of the Lord. (By the way, that’s a beautiful bit of advice for wives today.)
On page 146, Dr. Edersheim wrote, "It is on similar grounds that the rabbis argue that a man must seek after a woman and not a woman after a man. It was observed by ancient Jews that God had not formed woman out of the head lest she become proud, nor out of the eye lest she should lust, nor out of the ear lest she should be curious, nor out of the mouth lest she should be talkative, nor out of the heart lest she should be jealous, nor out of the hand lest she should be covetous, nor out of the foot lest she should be a busybody, but out of the rib which was always covered. Modesty, therefore, was a prime quality in the women of Israel."
In like manner it must be said that Christ seeks after us. It is not the nature of a sinner to want to become a Christian, and, dear friend, you cannot become a Christian just when you want to. You can only become a Christian when the Holy Spirit places conviction within your heart and that wooing of the Holy Spirit takes place. When you feel that desire, that longing down inside to settle the matter of your soul, that is God’s invitation to you. If you reject at that point, it is like turning down a proposal made by the groom to be His bride. Have you ever been to a church service where, when the invitation was given, you had the urge to step out and walk the aisle and there receive Christ as your Savior, but you did not?
It seemed that God the Holy Spirit was urging you to step forward, but someone else was giving you a hundred reasons why you should put it off until another day. Finally, you decided to wait.
Dear friend, that is dangerous. There may never be another day. Oh, you may live another 50 years, but the Bridegroom may never again propose to you.
"Well," you may ask, "how will I know that God will receive me if I pray and ask for salvation?" If you are concerned, it is God who gave you that concern. If you are indifferent then you should know the Holy Spirit is not working in your heart. Please, don’t continue to reject His proposal.
On page 148, Dr. Edersheim continued, "From the moment of her betrothal, a woman was treated as if she were actually married. The union could not be dissolved except by regular divorce."
In like manner, once we have received Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, the betrothal covenant is activated. The believer becomes the bride of Christ. We are actually married, and our union cannot be dissolved.
Ah, but wait a minute. Divorce was available among the Jews. Someone may be asking the question, "Cannot a Christian, then, lose his salvation?" For the answer to that, we have only to read the words of Jesus. Matthew 19:3-6:
"The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
"And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
"And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
"Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
This profound statement made by Jesus Christ sets aside any possible divorce in our new covenant. When the Jews pressed the matter of divorce, Jesus said, "But from the beginning it was not so."
Dear friend, once you make that decision of your own free will to join the bride of Christ, the union cannot be dissolved.
In the ancient Jewish custom a betrothal covenant was drawn up stipulating the mutual obligations, the dowry, and all other points on which the parties had agreed. Then the document was signed by two witnesses.
According to rabbinical law, certain formalities were necessary in order to make a betrothal legally valid. These consisted either in giving the bride-to-be (directly or through messengers) a piece of money, or a letter stating that the man intended to espouse the woman as his wife. In like manner, our Savior has given us 27 books of the new covenant wherein He promises to return one day to take us as His bride.
According to ancient Jewish custom, once the price is paid and the betrothal covenant is established the bridegroom goes back home to the father’s house and builds the "huppah" — the bridal chamber. It may take a few weeks, or it could take several months.
The bride, meanwhile, knows only that her bridegroom will return for her. She does not know when. In like manner, our Bridegroom has returned to the Father’s house — where, for more than 1,900 years, He has been building the huppah, the bridal chamber. Read His promise in John 14:1-3:
"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."
"I go to prepare a place for you," said Jesus. And He has been doing just that for almost 2,000 years, preparing for that day when he shall return to receive us unto Himself. Meanwhile, the bride prepared for the coming of her bridegroom. According to the ancient custom, the bride gathered her dowry and chose the young ladies who would be her bridesmaids.
These young ladies were given lamps to use in the procession when the bridegroom came. According to Dr. Edersheim’s book, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, page 155, rabbinical authority took note that such lamps were carried on the top of staves and that ten lamps were always the number mentioned in connection with public solemnities.
He wrote, "According to Rabbi Simon, it was an eastern custom that when the bride was led to her future home, they carried before the party about ten such lamps."
That compares quite nicely with the parable of the ten virgins given in Matthew 25. According to the ancient custom, the groom did not tell his bride when he could be expected.
Therefore, she must be prepared at all times. In like manner, our Savior has hidden from His bride the day and the hour of His return. Again, according to the ancient custom, the coming of the bridegroom usually occurred at night. That was the reason for the ten lamps.
In traditional Jewish weddings the celebration began after the marriage ceremony when the evening star appeared in the sky. The time would be somewhere between eight and ten o’clock in the evening, depending upon the season of the year. According to the parable of the ten virgins, however, it was well past ten o’clock when the bridegroom came. In fact, it was at the midnight hour, and five of the virgins had run out of oil.
In like manner, I must say that historians have called the 19th century "The Darkling Plane" and the 20th century, "The Midnight Hour — the darkest period in world history."
World War III looms on the horizon. There has never been a darker hour than today. Surely the Bridegroom is soon to be on His way.
According to the ancient custom, as the bridegroom approached the home of his bride a shout would go forth, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh! Go ye out to meet him." Again, in like manner, we are promised that the "Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." At that time, wrote the apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 4:16-17:
"… 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…"
It is a beautifully romantic picture. Listen to the Song of Solomon 2:8-13:
"The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
"My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
"My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
"For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
"The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
"The fig tree putteth forth her green figs [Did you see that?! The budding of the fig tree is mentioned here!], and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away."
And then the bride exclaimed in verses 16-17:
"My beloved is mine, and I am his…
"Until the day break, and the shadows flee away…"
Wow! What a promise that in the midst of the midnight hour of world history our Bridegroom will come and take us away with Him until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
And, dear friend, that will come at the end of the seven-year Tribulation Period when a new day dawns upon the world — the glorious golden age of the millennial reign of Christ.
Now let us take note of the procession. According to Edersheim on page 155 of his book, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, the custom of a bridal veil was of ancient date. Still more ancient, however, was the wearing of crowns. When we are taken, we shall wear a crown.
When the procession began, palm branches and myrtle branches were borne before the couple. Grain or money was thrown about, and music accompanied the procession.
Ten lamps were carried by virgins as they made their way to the father’s house. When they arrived, the bride and her groom were escorted to the huppah — the bridal chamber — where the marriage was consummated. There the bride would stay in seclusion while the families and friends celebrated the festivities for seven days.
At the end of seven days the groom would bring forth his bride without her veil and present her to the people. In like manner, we who are the bride of Christ will be taken into heaven for a seven-year seclusion while all of heaven rejoices.
On earth, however, that seven years will be characterized by tribulation. It will be a time of unparalleled disaster wherein the judgment of God will be poured out upon an unbelieving human race. This is the Tribulation Period.
At the end of the seven years, however, right at the height of the Battle of Armageddon, the Bridegroom will return to earth with His bride.
He will conquer the armies of the world and establish His kingdom. He will be proclaimed as King of kings and Lord of lords, and we, His bride, shall rule and reign with Christ for a thousand years.
Wow! What a honeymoon!