4. THE JEWISH WEDDING CELEBRATION
The Jewish wedding celebration is a wonderful prophetic pointer to the Church as the Bride of Christ and is therefore an indicator to the timing of the rapture.
4.1. The distinction between “for” and “with”
There are two different pictures painted of the Messiah in the Old Testament. There is the suffering Messiah (Isa. 53; Ps. 22) and the Kingly Messiah (Ps. 2:6-12; Zech. 14:9,16). There are two separate and different comings of the Lord Jesus. The first appearance of Jesus was as the suffering Messiah; His second appearance will be His return as King. In the New Testament we once again have two descriptions of the return of Jesus. The first description is of Jesus returning for His Bride, the Church, for whom He died as the suffering Messiah (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The second picture is of Jesus the Messiah King returning with His bride (Rev. 19:11-21).
4.2. The Jewish Messiah has a Jewish marriage ceremony
The relationship that Jesus has with His Church is very special. Scripture uses the analogy that Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is the Bride, to underline the intimacy of the relationship Jesus has with His Church. The Lord has loved the Church and died for her, purifying her with His blood (Eph. 5:26), so that He could join with her in an everlasting covenant. God uses symbolism in scripture to convey a spiritual meaning, and the Church being called the “Bride” of Christ (Eph. 5:22-23; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 21:2) is a very good example of this. We are then able to see a strong parallel in scripture between the relationship of Jesus and His Church (His Bride) and the Jewish marriage ceremony. Jesus the Jewish Messiah will have a Jewish marriage ceremony with His bride the Church. Let’s look at the evidence by comparing the two:
- The young Jewish man would travel from his father’s house to the home of the young lady he wished to marry. Jesus left His Father’s home in heaven to travel to where his future bride lived on earth.
- Once at the home of his prospective bride the young man would establish a marriage covenant, a betrothal, a guarantee of the marriage contract and a confirmation that he would return for the girl to claim her as his bride. The price for the bride (mohar) would be paid after negotiations with the bride’s father were completed. Jesus established an eternal covenant through his blood (Heb. 13:20; Luke 22:20). The seal of the covenant, or the ring, is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). The price for the bride (the Church) was paid with the life blood of Jesus (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
- If the betrothal was accepted the young man would pour a cup of wine for his betrothed and wait to see if she drank it. If she drank from the cup, she accepted the proposal and they would be betrothed. This ceremony represents the covenant of communion, where the Christians remember the great lengths Jesus went to seal the betrothal covenant with His bride.
- The Wildolive website of Jewish Weddings states that before leaving his fiancé’s home the young man would announce “I am going to prepare a place for you” and “I will come back for you when all is ready” (1). He would then return to his father’s house and build a room for them to live in once they were married. Jesus tells his disciples exactly this in John 14:2-4, “In my Father’s house are many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you… I will come back and take you to be with me.”
- On returning to His father’s house the young man would begin the process of building a home for his bride. He was required to be diligent and his father would continually inspect the work done to ensure that it was up to standard. Only with the final approval from the father that the home was satisfactory would the wedding be able to take place. According to the Wildolive website it was because of this that, when the bridegroom was asked when his wedding would take place, his response would be “Only my father knows” (2). This custom explains the statement by Jesus in Matthew 24:36 regarding the timing of His return, saying that “no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but the father only”. Jesus, in His statements regarding His return at the rapture, continually emphasises that it would follow the customs of the Jewish marriage ceremony. Jesus will only return when “the full number of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25) – the full number of Gentiles God has ordained for salvation. God will approve of the work done by Jesus in building His Church and the Bride will be called to join the Bridegroom in heaven.
- The Jewish bridegroom would only be able to go and collect his bride when all was ready at his father’s house. The room he had built for his bride would have to be complete and pass his father’s inspection. Also, the wedding preparations would have to be complete. This meant that the bridegroom could arrive for his bride at any time, so at night the bride would place all she needed for the wedding next to her bed, including an oil container for her lamp. This would ensure she would be ready to leave for the wedding should the bridegroom come during the night. In the parable of the 10 virgins Jesus speaks of how the foolish virgins “took no oil with them” (Matt. 25:3), and are banished from the wedding. This parable emphasises that the rapture is selective; only those with the Holy Spirit, symbolised by the oil container for the lamp which was used to light the way, will be able to go to the wedding.
- The tradition in the Jewish marriage ceremony was that the groom would come for his bride at night; and a shout of warning would be given along with the blowing of a shofar. This would warn the bride of the bridegroom’s approach and give her time to get ready, to go with the bridegroom. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 writes regarding the process of the rapture that “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”. In 1 Corinthians 15:52 he tells us that the rapture will occur at “the last trumpet”. Thus, the rapture of the Church matches the call of the Jewish bridegroom for his bride to go with him to the marriage ceremony.
- When the bride came out to meet the groom, they would then travel together to the groom’s father’s house. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 19:7-9 and John 14:2-3 we see that the Church is taken to the Father’s house and “so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
- On arriving at the father’s house, the bride and groom enter the bridal chamber (huppa), where they would consummate the marriage that was covenanted earlier. Dr Renald Showers in his article Jewish Wedding Traditions and the Rapture explains that “parallel to the custom of the Jewish groom and bride entering into union after their arrival… Christ and the Church (bride) will experience spiritual union after their arrival in heaven; thereby consummating their relationship covenanted earlier” (3).
- The Jewish wedding feast lasts for seven days as seen with Samson’s marriage to his first Philistine bride in Judges 14:17-18, and with Jacob’s marriage to Leah in Genesis 29:27. The Bible tells us in Daniel 9 that the Tribulation period lasts for seven years, a heptad, which is Hebrew for a week of years. The marriage supper of the lamb occurs during the seven years of Tribulation, once again confirming a pre-Tribulation rapture.
- At the end of the seven days of the wedding feast the bride is taken out and shown to all. At the end of the Tribulation period the bride of Christ returns with Jesus to the world.
(1) Wildolive, Jewish marriage customs: http://www.wildolive.co.uk/weddings.htm
(2) Wildolive, Jewish marriage customs: http://www.wildolive.co.uk/weddings.htm
(3) Dr Renald Showers, Jewish Wedding Traditions and the Rapture: ww.forever.com/jewish_weddings.
4.3 Bride not brawler
The scriptural analogy of the Church as the Bride of Christ is in itself evidence of a pre-Tribulation rapture. What bridegroom would arrange a brawl for his bride just prior to the wedding, a brawl so severe it almost annihilates the bride! Jesus the Bridegroom rescues His Bride, the Church, from the evil that would seek to destroy her. Jesus will not force His Bride into the conflict of the Tribulation but delivers her from it.
4.4. The “wife” makes herself ready
In Rev. 19:7-9 a voice announces just before the great battle of Armageddon at the end of the seven years of Tribulation, that “the wedding of the Lamb has come”. This scripture is seen by post-Tribulation supporters as a contradiction to the belief of a seven-year marriage feast. This is not the case for the following reasons:
- The term “is come” can imply that it has happened or is still taking place.
- The Greek gune is used for the woman, which correctly interpreted means “wife” not “bride.” So, the correct translation of the Greek would be “His wife has made herself ready,” which implies the marriage feast is at an end, and the bride has now legally become the wife.
- The statement “blessed are they that are called unto the marriage supper of the lamb,” can be interpreted as being that the wedding feast is presently taking place and those who are called are blessed to be there. So, the scene in Revelation 19 has the marriage supper nearing its end, with the Bride of Christ now legally bound as His “wife” and all who are there are honoured to be there.
4.5. Rebekah is a type of the Bride of Christ
We need to study how the Bema judgement seat (2 Cor. 5:10) fits in with the sequence of the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). This is wonderfully clarified in the story where Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24). Abraham is a type of God the Father who sends the Holy Spirit to find a bride for His Son, Jesus. In the story Rebekah does the work required by the servant of drawing water from the well for him and his camels, which identifies her as the woman chosen by God to be Isaac’s bride. Once she had completed the work the servant gave her gifts of a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets. By her accepting the gifts, she is indicating her willingness to become Isaac’s bride. When her marriage to Isaac took place, she would be wearing the gifts of jewellery. Likewise, when the Church is raptured, we receive our reward for works at the Bema judgement seat, which are symbolised by gold, silver and costly jewels (1 Cor. 3:12). These “jewels” will be worn by the Church at the marriage supper. Once again, the traditions of the patriarchs fit in with a pre-Tribulation rapture, whereas post-Tribulation supporters are left with no explanation.
4.6. The unwanted guest
Revelation 12:7 records that there is war in heaven between the angels of heaven, led by the archangel Michael against Satan and his demons, resulting in Satan and his demonic followers being “hurled” down to earth and banished from appearing before God in heaven. The reason for this war in heaven is explained in Revelation 12:10; the scripture refers to Satan as the “accuser of the brethren, who accuses them before God day and night”. The first two chapters of Job confirm that Satan is an accuser of “the brethren,” and regularly appears along with the angels when they present themselves to God in heaven. The reason that Satan is banished from heaven is that the Church is about to be raptured. Their arch-enemy, Satan, would be an unwanted presence at the marriage supper. He is the enemy of the Church, the antagonist who has continually brought about methods to deceive, disrupt and do violence to the Church in his efforts to undermine its effectiveness and ultimately to destroy it.
In Revelation 12:12 a heavenly voice urges those who are in heaven to rejoice when Satan is cast down to earth. The Church is in heaven, the race has been run and the prize attained (1 Cor. 9:24). The battle between Satan and the Church is over and the marriage supper, a time of great joy and celebration, is about to take place.
The heavenly voice of Revelation 12 ends with a warning to the inhabitants of the earth “because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short”. Satan would know that he now only had seven years before he is thrown into the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3) so he would certainly be filled with wrath and hatred, determined to do as much damage in the time he has left.
4.7. The rapture of believers in contrast to the return of Jesus at the end of the age.
A study of the scriptures reveals that the prophets recorded that there would be two distinct “returns” of Jesus. The first is at the rapture, where Jesus descends from heaven to the clouds above the earth, and His Church is called up to meet Him in the air. The second is when Jesus returns to earth with His saints at the end of the Great Tribulation. The numerous differences between these two important events are listed below:
1. At the rapture Jesus comes for His bride, the Church (1 Thess. 4:13-18); believers are then raised to heaven.
1. Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation with His Bride, the Church, to earth (Jude 14; Rev. 19:14); no translation of believers to heaven takes place.
2. Jesus descends with a shout, that calls His bride to Him (1 Thess. 4:16).
2 No shout is recorded in scripture when Jesus returns to set up His Kingdom (Rev. 19:11-21).
3. Jesus is seen only by those who believe in Him (1 Cor. 15:50-53).
3. All nations of the earth will see the return of Jesus (Matt. 24:30).
4. The rapture is instantaneous, occurring in a twinkling of the eye(1 Cor. 15:52).
4. Jesus’ return to the Mount of Olives is deliberate and extended involving the battle against the Antichrist, the judgements and the establishment of His kingdom (Zech. 14:3; Dan. 2:44-45; 2 Thess. 2:8 & Rev. 19:11-21).
5. The bodies of believers will be transformed into glorious heavenly bodies (1 Cor. 15: 51-56).
5. No transformation takes place, as the Church have heavenly bodies when they return with the Lord (Rev. 19:11-21).
6. The Church meets the Lord in the air above the earth and travels with Him to heaven (1 Thess. 4:17).
6. Jesus returns to earth with His “holy ones” (1 Thess. 3:13); Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives to rule and reign with His Church (Acts 1:9-11; Matt. 25:31-32; Rev. 19:14; Zech. 14:4).
7. Believers are taken to the Father’s House in heaven (John 14:3).
7. Believers return with Jesus to Earth from heaven. Jesus is described as coming with clouds (Rev. 1:7); coming on the clouds (Matt. 24:30, 26:64; Mark 14:62); and coming in a cloud (Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27). The cloud is the multitude of believers (Jude 14), returning as the army of the Lord, riding on white horses and dressed in “fine linen white and clean” (Rev. 19:14).
8. The rapture keeps the Church from the hour of trial (Rev. 3:10) and rescues the Church from wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9). The deliverance from trial and wrath is the blessed hope of the Church (Titus 2:13).
8. The Church has no need to be rescued, as they are returning with Jesus as part of a mighty army(Jude 14; Rev. 19:11-21).
9. The rapture is selective; Jesus gathers His own (1 Thess. 4:13-18; Matt. 25:1-13).
9. The second coming affects all mankind, with the wicked being collected first (Matt. 13:28-30), followed by the righteous (Matt. 24: 31).
10. Jesus comes to reward the Church (2 Cor. 5:10) and there is no judgement of the unrighteous at the rapture. However, the Tribulation that follows the rapture is a judgement on the world for their rebellion against God.
10. The unrighteous are judged and righteousness is established on the earth (Matt. 13:41-43; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 20:11-15).
11. At the rapture, resurrection is prominent (1Thess. 4:15-16).
11. In the scriptural record of the second coming resurrection is not mentioned.
12. Jesus comes to present the Church to Himself (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:6-9).
12. Jesus comes with His Church to battle against the Antichrist, to Judge the unrighteous and to set up His Kingdom (Zech. 14:3-4; Jude 14-15; Rev. 19:11-21).
13. Satan is cast out of heaven to earth (Rev. 12:9).
13. Satan is bound for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).
14. The rapture is a mystery, revealed by Paul to the Church in the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:51).
14. The day of the Lord’s return to judge the earth is foretold in the Old Testament (Zech. 12:10-12; Joel 3:12).
15. The rapture signals the start of the seven years of Tribulation (Rev. 3:10; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Titus 2:13).
15. The Return of Jesus to Jerusalem signals the start of the Millennial Kingdom (Zech. 12:10-13; Rev. 19:11-21).
16. Scripture makes no mention of Jesus establishing His Kingdom on earth at the rapture.
16. Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation and establishes His Kingdom on earth (Matt. 25:31, 34).
In conclusion, the post-Tribulation rapture theory stumbles and falls trying to match the symbolism of the Church as the Bride of Christ. As it has the rapture occurring at the end of the Tribulation, when Jesus is returning to the earth, there is a very sudden “U” turn done by the Church. There is no time for the judgement for the works done by believers in service to the Lord, which takes place in heaven (2 Cor. 5:10). The reward for our good work is the position of authority we will hold and what our responsibilities will be during the Millennial period. Therefore, the reward could also determine our “rank” or seniority in the returning army of the Lord, and will also determine the responsibilities an individual will have during the Millennial Kingdom. The post-Tribulation theory also leaves no time for the marriage supper to take place. The Saints who are raptured must just mount their horses in mid-air and return for combat!
Paul clearly states in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that we meet the Lord “in the air,” not in heaven. Yet in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 he states that “our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (emphasis added) from heaven. This is confirmed in Revelation 19:14. There must be no mistake, the rapture results in our meeting Jesus in the air before going to heaven for the marriage supper. We also need to look at the promise made by Jesus in John 14:2-3, that He would prepare a place for us in heaven and then come back for us and take us to His Father’s house in heaven, “that you also may be where I am”. Jesus cannot fulfil this promise if the rapture occurs at the same time as the second coming. Therefore, the second coming must consist of Jesus returning to earth from heaven (His Father’s house) with His Bride.