So the first marriage, between God and Israel, failed on account of the bride’s adultery. The second marriage is to be between God’s son and the Church, both Jew and Gentile. No wonder the Church has had a problem with the Jews – no-one gets on with their mother-in-law do they (think about it)!? Joking aside, there’s a lot we can learn from this new marriage covenant, between Jesus and the Church.
The first thing to note is that the wedding hasn’t yet happened. We are still at the betrothal stage, the Church is just engaged to be married to Jesus. He proposed to us during the Last Supper when he said:
“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28)
This covenant was to be made possible by the shedding of Jesus’s blood as the sacrifice for sin. He paid the bride price with his life. Our acceptance of this covenant is dependent on our response to this act. In the act of betrothal it is Jewish custom to share a cup of wine together, so we can see the connection here. When we take Holy Communion it is a reminder of our betrothal to Jesus. We are partakers in the longest engagement period in history!
Another Jewish custom at the time of betrothal is for the groom to present his bride with special gifts, mementos to sustain her during the engagement period. The Bride of Jesus, the Bride of Christ, the Church has received the greatest gift of all, that of the Holy Spirit.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
What a gift, what a reminder! A very practical gift indeed!
Also, during this period the groom has to prepare a place for them to stay in after the wedding, the wedding chamber. This is usually built in his father’s house, to his father’s specifications.
Jesus also spoke of this to his bride, the Church. So a place is being prepared for Christians to stay with him immediately after the Wedding ceremony.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)
During the betrothal period, the couple is considered as husband and wife. This is shown in the following passage.
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18-19)
Sex was prohibited during this period, which is why the sudden and inexplicable pregnancy of Mary was a public disgrace and Joseph quietly planned to divorce her.
“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)
Until he was shown the complete picture, of course.
Returning to the Bride of Christ, the engagement can’t last forever. Eventually the moment must come, the marriage ceremony, the wedding. One day the wedding chamber will be ready and the groom’s father signals the all-clear, now fetch your bride! The shofar is blown and the groom comes for his bride.
Wow, those of you into end-times stuff would immediately see the connection here. Because there will be a time when Jesus comes back for his bride, the Bride of Christ, the Church.
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
The next fact you can take or leave, but it’s the next item in the Jewish wedding narrative. In the ceremony, the newly weds will spend seven days in the wedding chamber, then the groom presents the bride to the world, a sort of second coming, or Second Coming, for those with a dramatic bent! Then comes the wedding supper, or Wedding Supper. You can build your own prophetic interpretations around this, I am certainly not getting drawn into end-times speculation!
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ “And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:6-9)
(This is an abridged extract from Steve’s book How the Church Lost the Way: And How it Can Find it Again)