Well, this is the sixth and final installment of the rapture series. In the previous installments we briefly covered how scripture supports the rapture teaching, the differences between the rapture and the second coming of Christ, the seven feasts of God, and the harvest cycles. In this blog I want to present to you what I believe is one of the strongest Biblical pictures of a pre-tribulation rapture, and that is found in the ancient Jewish wedding.
A lot of times when we read of marriage in the Bible we tend to view them through filters based on the American culture. When we do that, we end up missing what it is that God is trying to reveal to us in Scripture, especially when it comes to our relationship with Christ. There is little resemblance between the wedding process of ancient Jews and what we practice here in America. When we view our relationship with Christ in the context of marriage, we rarely see that it is also a picture of end-time events and the fulfillment of Biblical end-time prophecy. When we realize this, it begins to really open up our understanding of what is in store for the Church and how the last days will take place.
To begin with, the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:2 that we are betrothed to Christ. Betrothed is different than the western practice of being engaged to be married to another. The practice of being engaged to be married is pretty much a commitment only as strong as the weakest commitment between the two getting married. With betrothal, the two parties are considered married civilly, legally, relationally, and religiously, even though the marriage has yet to be consummated. Unlike engagements that can be terminated simply by one of the two parties indicating they are backing out of it, the only way to break a betrothal is through divorce or death. When Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy, he was planning on putting her away privately until an angel appeared to him, Matthew 1:18-25. Even though they had not yet consummated the marriage, what Joseph was planning on doing was to give Mary a letter of divorce, ending the betrothal stage and the marriage.
In Ephesians 5:22-33 the Apostle Paul gives us some instructions regarding marriage, and in that portion of Scripture he likens marriage between a man and a woman to that of Christ and the Church. The relationship between Christ and the Church is a marriage relationship, and in it we find clues that point to the rapture of the Church and other end-time Biblical prophecies. Let’s take a look at some of these.
In the ancient Jewish wedding, it was initiated with the groom choosing his bride. We see that in John 15:16 and in Ephesians 1:4 where Jesus chose us first. If the groom’s father approved of his selection, then the groom would approach who he wanted with what is called a ketuba. The ketuba was a proposed contract of sorts that the groom would present to the anticipated bride, one that would stipulate both what would he would commit to, and what was expected of her, in their relationship. For the Christian, the Bible is our ketuba. After approaching the prospective bride, if the bride consented to his proposal they would then take the necessary steps to contractually enter into marriage with each other, which often times included both of them drinking from the same cup.
After the new bride and groom enter into this marriage with each other, before they ever consummate the marriage, the groom would leave to go to his father’s house to prepare a place for his new bride. We see this in our relationship with Jesus in John 14:1-2, where He tells us that He is going to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us. When the groom left to go prepare a place for his bride, this period of time was usually around 12 months long, but the groom didn’t know how long as that was to be determined by his father. Speaking of His return for the Church, His Bride, Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 that He doesn’t even know when that will take place, but only the Father knows.
While the groom was gone preparing a place for his new bride, the bride was set apart for him alone, and she was to present herself to others as someone’s wife. During this period of time, the betrothal stage, the bride was considered married to her groom legally, civilly, and religiously. Anything on her part that could be viewed as being unfaithful or uncommitted to her groom drew very serious consequences. This was a period of time that she was expected to prepare herself for her groom and his return for her, being ever watchful for him not knowing when he would return. Throughout the New Testament we read of how we are to grow up and mature in Him, how we are to find our identity in Him alone, and how that we are to live a life pleasing and honoring to Him as we prepare ourselves for His return. Furthermore, Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:43 and Matthew 25:13, that we are to be watching for His return, not knowing when that will be.
In our relationship with Christ, we are in the betrothal stage. Contrary to popular opinion, our marriage to Christ has not been finalized yet, and it won’t be until after we are raptured up to meet Him in the air. Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 11:2 that we are betrothed to Jesus. If our marriage to Him has been completed already, then he wouldn’t tell us we are betrothed to Jesus. This is an important fact to remember. Many people believe that once they enter into a saving relationship with Christ, their relationship with Him is complete and final, and that they are guaranteed a ticket to be a part of the rapture when it takes place. Having this mindset is contradictory to what we see in Scripture, especially in the parables and teachings of Jesus that tell us that many who call themselves Christians will not be raptured up or enter into Heaven with Christ for eternity. However, when we view our relationship with Jesus through the eyes of the ancient Jewish wedding, we can clearly see how that is. When the groom returned for his bride and found that she wasn’t faithful to him, or that her affections were elsewhere, or even that she hadn’t prepared for him like she was supposed to, he would give her a letter of divorce and leave without her. This is what Joseph planned to do with Mary when he heard that she was pregnant, but an angel intervened and told him not to put her away as he was planning to do. When Jesus returns, if He finds that we’ve been unfaithful to Him, or that our affections are elsewhere, or that we hadn’t prepared ourselves for His return as we ought, He will also give us a letter of divorce and leave us behind. A scary and very sobering thought to consider.
When the groom returns and finds his bride watching and ready for him, he would then take her back to his father’s house where they would then consummate the marriage. This would mark the beginning of a week full of festivities attended by family and friends of the family, a period of time that was usually seven to 10 days long. This period of time coincides prophetically with the tribulation period. At what is known as the “Lord’s Supper”, Jesus tells us in Matthew 26:26-29 and in Mark 14:24-25 that after that time He would not again drink of the vine until He drinks it with us in His Father’s Kingdom. Jesus was having the Passover meal with His disciples, and in understanding the Passover meal and the four cups they would drink from, we can know that they drank from the third cup of four cups. They do not drink from the fourth cup, waiting for Elijah to return and drink from it announcing the arrival of the Messiah. That fourth and last cup of the Passover meal has a unique name to it, the Cup of Consummation. That will be the cup that Jesus and His Bride will drink from after the rapture of the Church, consummating the marriage between Jesus and the Church. This is all happening during the tribulation period.
When the wedding festivities conclude seven to 10 days later, the bride and groom return to be seen publicly as husband and wife, and the groom will have a year where he does no work or go to war so he can focus his time and attention on his new bride. In regards to Jesus and the Church, His Bride, we see this in Revelation 19:11-14 when Jesus returns with His Bride, the armies of Heaven. It is at this time that the millennial, 1,000-year reign of Christ begins.
As you can see, the parallels between the ancient Jewish wedding and Christ’s relationship to the Church, as well as Biblical end-time events, are amazing. Jesus is coming for a Bride without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:25-27), and it’s up to the Bride to make sure her garments are clean and pressed for Him. Jesus gave us His robe of righteousness when we accepted Him as our Lord and Savior, but it is up to us to keep that robe clean and free from sin and the marks of this world. If we don’t, then we risk getting a “letter of divorce” from Jesus and left behind. In the midst of John recording what he was seeing with the judgments in the book of Revelation, Jesus pops in for a quick commercial to emphasize this important point. In Revelation 16:15, Jesus tells us “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (NKJV). If we miss the rapture, we lose our robe of righteousness that He gave us, and Jesus doesn’t want that to happen to us. Are your garments spotted with sin, especially sin that you choose to continue in? Jesus isn’t pulling any punches. He wants us to be watching for Him with robes ready and prepared for Him.
Are you ready for Him? If not, then this is the time to do so! You can’t wait until a better time to prepare for Him, or to get sin out of your life. Don’t allow your robes of righteousness to remain blemished and spotted from the world! Jesus is coming back, and by all indications much, much sooner than most care to believe. Don’t be caught off guard and unprepared!
John Johansson (Pastor John)