Viewing the Bible through the lens of the First Century
As is common in Systematic Theology, there are conflicting views regarding the Rapture and the Second Coming. One source of confusion over these two end time events stems from verses found in Matthew chapter 24. While speaking broadly about the end of the age, it's likely this chapter references both the Rapture and the Second Coming. It's important to note, the purpose of Christ's teaching here was to prepare believers for the end. He wanted his followers to be watchful, living each day as though His return was imminent. The message was simply, "Be Ready."
Is there a difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ? I personally believe, prophetic scriptures speak of two separate and distinct events—the Rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The Rapture will occur when Jesus Christ returns for His church. This is when all true believers in Christ will be taken from the earth by God into heaven (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
The Second Coming will happen when Jesus Christ returns with the church to defeat the antichrist, overthrow evil and then establish his thousand year reign (Revelation 19:11-16).
More importantly is the question when? Before Tribulation - Versus - After Tribulation? The Rapture will happen before the Tribulation. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 Revelation 3:10
The Second Coming will happen at the end of the Tribulation: Revelation 6-19
The Rapture could happen at any moment: 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 Titus 2:13
1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 The Second Coming won't happen until certain events take place: 2 Thessalonians 2:4 Matthew 24:15-30 Revelation 6-18
As we blog onward regarding, “Living in the Last Days”, we find reference after reference, echo after echo on the horizon pointing to the Lord’s return. It’s almost as if I hear the Lord saying,
“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2
One such matter is the idea of the Rapture of the church, tucked neatly out of plain sight in the Jewish wedding ceremony! Not only do we see the Rapture clearly, we see when it happens!
One of the most profound illustrations in Scripture is the depiction of the Church as the bride of Jesus the Messiah. When we approach this illustration from a modern perspective, viewing it through the eyes of “Twentieth Century American Marriage” and courtship customs, we miss much of the richness and depth of the picture.
To appreciate what it must have meant to Jesus' disciples when He taught them about His Kingdom using marriage metaphors, or to Paul's readers when he described Christ as the husband of the Church, we need to discover what marriage and courtship were like in First Century Israel.
When we compare what we discover to the calling out of the Church by the Lord Jesus, we find an amazing parallel, in which virtually every aspect of the ancient Jewish tradition is fulfilled. Throughout the New Testament, God uses the analogy of a bride and groom to describe the relationship of Jesus Christ to the Church; the Church is a New Testament term for the believers in Jesus Christ. As a groom pledged love to his bride, so Jesus committed His love to believers,
Jesus pledged to return for us and, He also promised an eternity spent with Him (John 14:1-6; Ephesians 5:23-32; Revelation 19:7-9, 21:9 - 22:17).
The people of Jesus’ day fully understood the marriage customs, of which He spoke, this includes the “betrothal”, a pre-marriage agreement similar to engagement, which started in the year 2000 B.C., as outlined in Genesis, chapter 24.
However, people of the twentieth century need to look at these ceremonies as they were during the first century to fully understand the significance of Jesus’ teachings.
Why is this important?
Apart from the general insight that this study gives into Scripture and our relationship with the Lord, we see our God is a God who pays meticulous attention to details. And a God who is willing to pay an inconceivably high price to secure a bride for His Son.
First-The “Shadidu-ken”, or “Match-making”;
1. The Choice
When a young Jewish man wished to marry a particular young woman, it was customary first for the prospective groom’s father to approach the girl’s father with the proposal of marriage.
A:The two men then discussed this possible union, including the price offered by the groom for the bride.
B:If the girl’s father agreed to the suggested amount they would call for the bride.
C: The potential bride then entered the room, where the prospective groom proclaimed his love for her and asked her to be his bride.
D: If the young woman wished to be his wife, she accepted his proposal at this time.
2. The Jewish Custom:
A. Initiated by the father of the groom. Jer 29:6
B. An agent may be used Gen 24:2-4 the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to the bride
C. Choice of groom considered
D. Consent of the bride possible Gen 24:5, 58
3. The Parallels to the Church:
A. Christ acted at the initiative of the Father
John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
B. Holy Spirit acts as the agent of Father in the world today
1 Cor 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Gal 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
C. Christ chose His disciples
John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
D. We respond to Christ’s love and accept Him
1 Pet 1:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
E. John the Baptist the best man. John 3:29
4. THE GIVING OF GIFTS
Mohar “The Bride Price”- Mattan “The Gifts”
In Genesis 34:12, appealing to Jacob to allow him to marry his Daughter Dinah, Shechem, prince of the land of the Hivites, says
12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.
“Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me.” NIV
5. The Cost
The word used for “bridal payment” is Mohar. The word used for “gift” is Mattan.
A. b Mohar was a payment from the groom to the father’s bride. It was an obligation of the law, and expressed the commercial side of the marriage.
Typically, the Mohar was a very high price and usually was paid in cash, a minimum of 50 shekels as seen in Levitical law. Sometimes, the Mohar was paid by other means. (Gen 29 Jacob works 14 years for Rachel.)
The value of the Mohar could depend greatly on the prosperity of the groom.
Example: Gen 24 where article of silver, gold and garments are given to Rebekah.
(Because of the way society felt about a divorced woman, it was customary to give the father a sum of money to put away for his daughter in case of a divorce. Also, only the man could divorce a woman, but the woman once married could not divorce her husband).
B. Mattan was a gift or gifts given to the bride from the groom, and thus was an expression of the heart.
The presentation of a gift by the groom was the validationof the agreement between the engaged or betrothed couple. He offered it in the presence of at least two witnesses.
As he gave the gift, usually a ring, he said to his intended bride, “Behold you are consecrated unto me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”
ILLUSTRATION: Ephesians 1:13 sealed (the engagement ring Modern Greek)
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of you salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,”
What does the word "sealed" (ἐσφραγίσθητε) mean, and what implications does it have in this verse (i.e., what does it mean to be "sealed...with the Holy Spirit")?
In ancient times a seal or signet was an instrument, often metal or stone, with an engraved pattern or design on it. It would be pressed into a softer material, usually wax or clay leaving an imprint like a stamp.
A seal affixed to a document (usually on a scroll) would have to be broken in order to unroll the document and read it. This meant it was in one way like today's "tamper-resistent seals" on packages. But it also was used to verify the authenticity of who sent a letter, especially a king's decree, because it would have the King's special stamp on it, similar to what we might use a signature for today. Handing over a signet ring would be symbolic way of allowing someone else to act on your behalf with your authority. However, sealing has both literal and figurative uses in the bible. Things besides just documents could be sealed. The door to the lion's den was "sealed" to prevent unauthorized entrance after it was shut. Jeremiah sealed the deeds of the field which he bought from Hanamel as a symbol of formal radification of his transaction. In the more figurative sense, it could also be used "for the act or token of authentication, confirmation, proof, security or possession." Thayer’s Greek Please take note: once sealed, only the sealer the intended recipient could unseal, the seal!
6. The Custom
Mohar - The bride price
A. Required by law
B. Paid by the father of the groom
C. Reflects the value of the bride
Mattan - Love gifts
A. Given by the groom to the bride
B. Not required, an expression of the heart
C. Given to equip her for her new life
7. The Parallel to the Church
Mohar - Our Mohar was the life of the Son
1. Required by Law
Rom 8:3-4 for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2. The Mohar was paid as required
1 Cor 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God
1 Pet 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
3. The value placed on the bride was high - John 3:16
B. Mattan - Believers are given gifts by the Lord out of love and to equip them for their new life.
1. Eternal life John 10: 22-28
2. The Holy Spirit John 14:16-17,26
3. Spiritual gifts 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
The high price of the Mohar indicates the value the Father placed on the bride:
John 3:16 for God so loved the world that He gave His Only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not Perish, but have Eternal Life.
“How much did the bridegroom pay?
We 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 the cost?
It could be argued that Jesus was a strong 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 that we must bear a lifetime.
The question is: Did Jesus really pay that much?
To find the real value of something, we must ask the purchaser. To some people a Cadillac or fur coat is a small expense.To the poor, those things are extremely expensive.
Jesus himself commented on how much He was paying -in Luke 22:39-42
And He came out and went to the Mount of Olives; and His disciples also followed him. 40 And when He was at the place, He said unto them, pray that ye enter not into temptation. 41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
Jesus held a private conversation with His Father saying, “If thou be willing remove this cup from Me”.
1. This must have happened from time to time under the old Jewish wedding custom.
2. Many a bridegroom probably returned to his father
after learning the price for his bride and ask the advice
of his father on whether he should pay such a high cost.
3. Do you realize how much they want for her? This must
have been an often repeated questioned in the old
4. The Jewish bridegroom was wise enough to know that
the father’s judgements in these matters were
trustworthy, and he could consult this father on the
amount to be paid.
Next, we are given some insight on just how high a price the purchaser was paying.
Here the father’s will is very clear;
v.43 And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.
And now we see the verse that expresses most painfully what the purchaser thought of the price:
v.44 And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
8. The Ketubah “Ket-too-bahhh”, or “Agreement”
1. The Contract - written document containing the Mohar
Arrangements concerning the terms of the marriage were also
made at this time.
A written agreement listed the time, place, and size of the
wedding, as well as recording the price of the bride, the promises
of the groom and the rights of the bride.
This binding document called a “Ketubah” was kept in the bride’s possession until the consummation of the marriage at a later date.
9. The Custom
A. Written document containing Mohar
B. Rights of the bride
C. Promises of the groom
10. Parallels to the Church -
A. Our written contract stating the Mohar, the rights of the Bride, and the promises of the groom, is in the Bible.
2 Cor 3:5-6 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of
ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
5 Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the
letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life
Heb 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
B. The Bible (New Testament) is our Ketubah. Holds all of our Lord’s Promises, believer’s rights, Contract.
Finally, this first of a two-part marriage ceremony was concluded by the toast of a glass of wine. (cup of acceptance)
The perspective bridegroom then pours a cup of wine and prays,
“Blessed art Thou, Eternal our God, Creator of Heaven and
Earth, who has given us the fruit of the vine, Amen.”
Matt 26:27-29 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29But 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
The whole ceremony was called the “Shiddukhin,” or engagement.
The Bible refers to this status of the prospective bride and groom as “espousal,” or “betrothal”. (cf Gen 24)
The only parts of the marriage not yet completed were the formal “huppah” ceremony followed by their physical union.
This betrothal was considered so binding that the only way to break it was by an actual bill of divorce.
Preparation of Huppah and His promised to return. The groom then departed, but not before he assured his bride with the promises of building a home for her, and returning to complete the marriage ceremony.
At this time, the bridegroom, knowing already how the bride will miss him, states, “Let not your heart be troubled, in my Father’s house are many mansions, 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.
11. The Kiddushin - Betrothal
The bride was expected to remain true to her groom as she prepared herself and her trousseau (the personal outfit of the bride usually including clothes, accessories, and `household linens).
She lived for the day of his return for her, which would be heralded by a shout from the members of the wedding party. (the bridegroom is coming!!!)
The impending return of her groom was to influence the bride’s behavior during this interim espousal period.
12. The Custom
A. Purification – usually 1 year, also to verify no pregnancy,
Mikveh (symbolic cleansing bath),
B. Sanctification/undistracted devotion- bride wears veil in
public whenever she steps out of her house, “spoken for”
- She also resists any other offers as she waits for her groom
- She belongs to the one who has paid for her
- Kudeshet’ meaning one who is betrothed, sanctified, or dedicated to another.
C. Anticipation - the bride would never know when the groom
Being at anytime, she would have an oil lamp prepared
full of oil in anticipation of that time.
The custom was to return at night and the lamp was used to
guide the couple to back to the nuptial chamber.
(Matt 25 parable of the 10 virgins)
13. The Parallels to the Church
A. We are set apart Jn 17:17, 2 Cor 11:2
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
B. We are not distracted by:
1. False teaching 2 John 7-11
2. Worldly things 1 John 2:15
C. We anticipate Christ’s return Matt 24:42-44.
14. The Bridegroom is Coming - Nissiun
The typical Jewish wedding took place at night.
1. The romanticism of the Jewish wedding custom was that the bride never knew when the groom would return.
2. The groom would, at the appointed time of the Father when the bridal chamber was ready would return for his bride.
3. As he came to the house of his bride the signal went forth,
showing his intention of “taking her to wife”.
As soon as any members of the wedding spotted the moving torches
signaling the groom’s approach, their cry, “the bridegroom is coming”
“The bridegroom is coming” echoed through the streets.
The party would blow “the shofar horn” to announce their coming. This formal process is called the “Nissiun”
Upon hearing the announcement, the excited bride would drop everything in order to slip into her wedding dress and complete her final preparations for marriage.
Typically this abduction would take place in the middle of the night and this was the romantic part, all Jewish brides where “stolen”
This was the special understanding in the bride’s heart. She would be snatched away in the night with her groom.
15. The Custom
A. Groom’s father decides when he may return for the bride
B. Arrival unexpected by the bride
C. Abduction of the bride
16. Parallels to the Church -
A. Only the Father knows when the Son will return Mark 13:32
B. The church (bride) doesn’t know
C. We will be abducted 1 Thess 4:16-17, Lk 17:34-36
Is this the verse of scripture that describes how the bride
of Christ is going to meet Him?
17. Huppah - The Wedding Ceremony
1. Rather than the groom entering the bride’s house, the bride came out to meet him.
2. The two, accompanied by their wedding party, returned together to the groom’s home for the marriage ceremony.
3. This final half of the wedding ceremony, or huppah, derives its name from the “huppah canopy” under which the bride and groom stood to be married by the rabbi.
4. Following the public ceremony, the newlyweds entered their bridal chamber to become intimate with each other for the first time.
18. When does the bride of Christ become His wife?
Genesis 24:67 reads;
“Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife.”
Similarly, when Jesus takes people to God’s mansion, or heaven, that is when they are officially married to Jesus.
19. The Festive Seven Day Celebration
Upon receiving the glad news, the wedding party began a festive seven-day celebration the celebration lasted seven days only if this was the first marriage of a virgin girl.
A. During this time the bride and the groom stayed with each other in seclusion.
B. The evidence of consummation was presented by the best man with much joy.
C. John the Baptist the best man. John 3:29-30, Deuteronomy 22:13-19.
Acts 20:28 28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
1 Pet 1:19 – 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb \without blemish and without spot:
D. At the end of this time of privacy, after 7 days the groom would present his new unveiled bride to everyone in attendance.
E. The guests get to see the bride unveiled for the first time since the time she was veiled at her house.
F. The newlyweds then joined in the wedding feast with the guests.
Who will not be guests of the wedding feast?
Those who have refused to accept the provisions made for them.
One such guest is described in Matthew 22:11-13;
11And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13Then said the king to the servants,bind him hand and foot and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14For many are called, but few are chosen.
Preparing for the End
The customs surrounding first century Jewish betrothals and weddings relate to Christians today.
What a wonderfully prophetic message is being presented to us in this ceremony.
There has never been a time like the present in all history, a time in which we see the signs of the second coming so clearly! However, since we know that the church is going to be snatched away prior to the second coming to meet the bridegroom in the air, just as the Jewish bride of long ago held the written promise of marriage commitment called Ketubah in her hand, which she would often read for reassurance while she waited for His return, so we, as the prospective bride of Christ today, hold and read the Bible for promises from Jesus describing His everlasting love and commitment.
20. The Bible is our Ketubah with Christ.
It is what gives hope of His promised return.
1. The Jewish bride relied on her binding agreement,
2. Her Ketubah Her promise book,
3. Just as mankind relies on Christ promises in the Bible to return.
The marriage symbolism in the Jewish wedding is “beautifully” fulfilled in the relationship of Jesus Christ to His Church.
In Revelation 19:6-9 we read about a prophetic hymn anticipating the marriage supperof the lamb and His bride. He won’t begin His reign on Earth until He has conquered, the kings of the Earth, who are led by the Anti-Christ.
This “marriage” or “rapture” follows an incredible sequence of events.
1. - there is an announcement of the end times.
2. - there is a rapture.
3. - there is a period of time in which the Antichrist reigns.
Finally: Christ makes His appearance with His bride in a Second Coming and He reigns with His bride.
The Jewish wedding is a perfect picture from beginning to end of Jesus’ love for all His believers.
This prophetic picture is quite accurate and it brings all believers in! It brings all believers into anticipation of Christs return. A return that could take place at any moment…
Rev 19:6-9 –
6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
Is Jesus your personal Bridegroom? Are you ready to meet Him? Soon the Shofar will blow, only those with two addresses will go to be with the Bridegroom. To the saints who are in Jesus Christ, and in ______________(place your physical address here!)
To the saints who are in Ephesus and in Jesus Christ,
To the saints who are in colossi and in Jesus Christ!