For nineteen hundred years, millions of readers have been inspired by the words and stories of Jesus written in the four Gospels of the New Testament. Jesus, here in His soothing
words to the disciples, was alluding not to weddingsof our day but to the Jewish marriage customs of the First Century.
Throughout the New Testament, God uses the analogy of a bride and groom to describe the relationship of Jesus to the church. As a groom pledged love to his bride, so Jesus committed His
love to believers, pledged to return for us and promised us an eternity spent with Him.
The people of Jesus' day fully understood the betrothal and marriage customs of which He spoke. However,
we in the twentieth century need to look at these ceremonies as they were during the first century, to fully understand the significance of Jesus' teachings. This understanding not only deepens our appreciation of
God's love for us, it also gives us added insights to prophetic events and offers comfort in a time of world unrest.
Jewish Weddings First-Century Style
When a Jewish young man wished to marry a particular young woman, it was customary for the prospective groom's father first to approach the girl's father with the proposal
of marriage. The two men would discuss this possible union including the price offered by the groom for the bride. If the girl's father agreed to the suggested amount, the two men sealed the agreement with a
toast of wine.
The potential bride then entered the room whereupon the prospective groom proclaimed his love and asked her to be his bride. If the young woman wished to be his wife, she
accepted his proposal at this time. The validation of the agreement made by the engaged couple was the presentation of a gift by the groom. 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."
Arrangements were also
made right then concerning the terms of the marriage. A written contract listed the time, place, and size of the wedding as well as recording the dowry and terms of maintenance of the marriage. This binding
document called a "ketubah" was kept in the bride's possession until the consummation of the marriage. Finally, this first part of a two-part ceremony was concluded by the toast of a glass of wine.
The whole ceremony was called the "Shiddukhin," or engagement.
The Bible refers to the status of the prospective bride and groom as "espousal" or
"betrothal." It meant that the two people were committed to each other as much as a married couple would be. 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 divorcement.
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. He usually took a year to prepare her new home which often consisted of an addition built
onto his own father's house.
The bride was expected to remain true to her groom as she prepared herself and her trousseau. 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 impending return of her groom was to influence the bride's behavior during this interim espousal period.
The typical Jewish
wedding took place at night. As soon as any members of the wedding spotted the moving torches signaling the groom's approach, their cry echoed through the streets, "The bridegroom is coming." The
Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia
tells us, "Mirth and gladness announced their approach to townspeople waiting in houses along the route to the bride's house." Upon hearing the announcement, the excited bride would drop everything in order to slip into her wedding dress and complete her final personal preparations for marriage.
Rather than the groom entering the bride's house, the bride came out to meet him. The two, accompanied by their wedding party, returned together to the groom's home for the
marriage ceremony. Following the public ceremony, the newlyweds entered their bridal chamber to be intimate with each other for the first time. After this union, the groom came out and announced to the
wedding guests, "Our marriage is consummated."
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. During this time the bride and the groom stayed with each other in seclusion. At the end of this time of privacy, the groom would
present his unveiled bride to everyone in attendance. The newlyweds then joined in the wedding feast with the guests.
Jesus the Groom, Believers the Bride
In the Bible, God describes mankind by such unflattering examples as dumb sheep, foolish builders, temporary grass, vipers, ornate
tombs, and blind leaders of the blind. Of course these and other disparaging descriptions fit us all too well. But, because of God's great love, He has other, quite compassionate ways to describe His
feelings toward those who respond to His offer of salvation. He gives us such wonderful titles as sons, joint heirs with Christ, beloved, and children. One of the most tender terms used to describe us is
"the bride, the Lamb's wife."
We just reviewed customs surrounding first-century Jewish betrothals and weddings. Now let's explore how these might relate to us as Christians
today. Then let's seek to uncover the possible prophetic information presented in these ceremonies.
In eternity past, God the Father and God the Son planned our
salvation. The Bible states concerning God, "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." They settled the price long before the offer of salvation was given to us. We see
God the Father as the "father of the groom" and because Jesus is actually the creative person of the Godhead, He stands in as the "the father of the bride."
to realize this offer of love was not an afterthought of God. In fact, the Scripture refers to Jesus as "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
(in the form of a man) also steps into the role of the prospective groom. He offered Himself as the "price" for us, His intended bride. God actually says about us,
"For ye are bought with a price."
After the plan was established, this loving proposal of salvation was given by Jesus to all mankind. God explains that everyone has
the opportunity to respond to His offer. The Bible says, "For whosoever
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth his handywork...There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard."
God also warns us that everyone understands who He is, so when people reject this proposal of love they are "without excuse."
When we answer "yes" to Jesus' offer of
marriage, we become His betrothed. This arrangement is secured by the Holy Spirit, who protects the purchased bride until the return of Jesus. God says, "Ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of
promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." Our "engagement ring" of promise is none other than the Holy
Spirit of God Himself.
Imagine, too, that just as the Jewish bride of long ago held the written promise of marriage commitment (ketubah) in her hand, so the prospective bride of Christ today holds the
Bible in her hands. These written promises from Jesus describe His everlasting love and commitment.
On the night before His Crucifixion, Jesus drank a glass of wine with His followers.
Lifting the cup He declared, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you." Paul reminds us that Jesus commanded, "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of
me." Just as the groom in a Jewish marriage toasted his espoused bride, so we, by the communion cup, remember our betrothal to Jesus and the supreme price He paid for us.
said He must leave us in order to go back to His Father's house and prepare our new home. He promised also to return and gather all those who constitute His bride and transport them to this new home. This
parallels exactly the ancient marriage customs!
For nearly two thousand years, Jesus has been in heaven "preparing a place for us." In God's time, Jesus will
"descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God... We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: so shall we ever be with the Lord
." This catching away, called by many "the Rapture," is pictured in the Jewish marriage custom. The groom comes to the bride's home and brings her back to the wedding ceremony which is
held at his father's house. This is the same house where he has also prepared a home for her.
Although we, the bride of Christ, have known for nearly two thousand years that Jesus would return
for us, we have only been able to say, "He's coming backómaybe in my lifetime." "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence we look also for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
We have, of necessity, spent a portion of our lives involved in mundane matters since we didn't know the exact time of His return. However, just as the first-century bride reacted excitedly
when she heard the shout across town announcing the impending arrival of her groom, so we as the listening bride of Christ should react when we hear the call, ahead of Jesus' arrival, "The bridegroom is
The wedding celebration of seven days is carried on by the guests while the bride and groom spend this time in seclusion. At the end of the seven days the groom brings his
bride out and her veil is removed for the first time, so all the guests can see her beauty.
This is a picture of the seven-year celebration in heaven which occurs simultaneously with the seven-year
time of Tribulation transpiring on earth. The culmination of this time is described in the Bible. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his
wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are
they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."
John Walvoord writes that "the marriage symbolism is beautifully fulfilled in the relationship of Christ to His
Church. Revelation 19:6-9 is actually a prophetic hymn anticipating the marriage of the Lamb and His bride after He has begun His reign, and He will not begin His reign on earth until He has conquered the kings of
the earth led by Antichrist."
The Jewish wedding, a perfect picture from beginning to end of Jesus' love for believers, should melt our hearts with appreciation. The prophetic
picture is quite accurate, bringing us once again to see that God has woven many time clues in the Scriptures for us to discover. Forbidden Knowledge click here.(The book contains all the scripture referrences and footnotes for the contents of the
above chapter excerpt.)
For more information on the book,