Jesus has equated the relationship between He and His Church as a marriage. Isn’t it likely that ancient Jewish marriage customs would then reflect the first and second Comings of Jesus? They do.
Ancient Jewish marriage customs reflect our relationship to Christ in multiple and unexpected ways actually. Let’s begin by looking at the various “steps” or stages of Jewish marriage customs.
- Shiddukhin or the Arrangement – It was traditional for the Father of the Groom to arrange the marriage of his son. If we look at Gen. 24, we see that the marriage of Isaac was arranged.
- Ketubah or the Written Contract – Once the Bride was chosen, a written arrangement or marriage contract was drawn up. Both the Groom and the Bride would each covenant on what they would bring to the marriage. The Commandments given on Mount Sinai and the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles constitute the Ketubah of our Jewish marriage to the Messiah.
- Mohar or the Bridal Payment – The Groom then provided the brides family with compensation. The most famous Old Testament example is Jacob’s service of 7 years to earn the right to marry each of Laban’s daughters (Gen. 29:20-27). Jesus purchased us with his blood on the cross. (Rev. 5:9).
- Mikveh – or Ritual Immersion – The Bride would then take a ritual baptism to symbolically cleanse her and prepare her for marriage. Israel was “baptized” crossing the Red Sea. The baptism of Christians today represent this step in the process.
- Matan – or Bridal Gift – It was at this point that the couple would enter into a formal engagement period (Eyrusin). They would publically appear together under a tent or Chuppah and announce their intentions and exchange wedding gifts (sometimes a ring). Our Messiah provided us with the gift of the Holy Spirit and other spiritual gifts.
- The couple would then separate for one to two years. The Groom would build an addition onto his Father’s House (John 14:1-3) while the Bride would prepare the wedding garments (Rev. 19:7-8) which we now know are the righteous deeds of the saints.
- Nissuin – or the “Carrying Away” – after the betrothal period the Father of the Groom would give permission for the Son to come and get his Bride (Matt. 24:36 – “only the Father knows”). Then with shouts, the Groom’s party would go ahead of the Groom announcing he was coming. (Matt. 25:6). Finally the Groom would come for his bride and carry her off.
- The Wedding Feast – The wedding party would follow the couple to the Father’s house where the couple would retire to the Chuppah and consummate the wedding behind closed doors. The Groomsman would then announce the consummation to the assorted guests and the 7 day Feast would begin.
Let’s look at a couple of prophetic fulfillments of this .
The Seven High Sabbaths of YHWH
Many of these steps in the Jewish Marriage customs are reflective of the yearly Seven High Sabbaths of YHWH in order. (Passover isn’t a High Sabbath)
PESAK – Jesus paid the bride price (on the cross) for his beloved on Passover
- MATSAH – The Bride accepted Jesus’s betrothal on the Feast of Unleavened Bread by drinking the communion cup (the third cup of Redemption) on the Feast of Unleavened Bread (See Four Cups)
- BIRKURIM – The Bride was immersed in baptismal waters on Yom Suph when Israel crossed the Red Sea. This is the second High Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread
- SHAVUOT – The Groom separated himself physically 10 days prior to Penecost, and the Bride separated herself from worldly things.
- TERUAH – The Bride and Groom reunite at the Rapture that comes on Yom Teruah when the bridegroom takes his bride home to his Father’s house.
- KIPPUR – On Yom Kippur the Messiah will fight off would-be suitors and will save the Remnant of Israel
- SUKOT – On Tabernacles the 7 day Wedding Feast will begin in heaven for the Raptured saints.
- 8th DAY – The GREAT Day symbolizes the eternal state after the Millennial Kingdom and our eternal marriage to Jesus
The Marriage of the Lamb
The Marriage and Wedding Feast of the Lamb are mentioned in Revelation, but we must read the text from a Jewish point of view. The most explicit mention of the Marriage of the Lamb is found in Rev. 19
I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God” … And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride (literally “wife”) has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:1, 4-8)
This is an incredibly confusing passage to many because it is a “flash-back” in Revelation to an event that happened earlier (After the Sixth Seal). This is not an event that happens at the very end of Revelation. The time marker for this event is the white garments that the Wife of the Lamb was given (past tense) to clothe herself with. We know that these garments are promised to the Bride in the Letter to Sardis:
He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Rev. 3:5)
They are given to the Bride after the Fifth Seal but she is not to put them on yet.
And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. (Rev. 6:11)
Finally the Bride is seen wearing the white robes after the Rapture, after the Sixth Seal.
A great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying “Amen” (Rev. 7:9-12)
Notice that Rev. 7:9-12 is the same scene as Rev. 19:4-8. The elders and living creatures are falling on their faces saying “Amen,” there is a great multitude, They cry out with a loud voice “Salvation belongs to our God,” BUT the Bride is now wearing the white garments in Rev. 7:9-17.
This scene also includes reference to the Chuppah or Tabernacle where the marriage is consummated as well.
He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. (Rev. 7:15)
We Will All be Changed
Paul equated the relationship between Christ and the Church as a marriage.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.“ This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:29-32)
I have never heard this also taught as an end time passage, but it should be (as well as a present time application). As we have just seen, the marriage of the Church takes place in heaven after the Sixth Seal. That is when the “two shall become one flesh.” How will this be? We will be changed and our bodies transformed to be like Jesus’s. Our flesh will be like his.
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:2)
This is what Paul was speaking of in 1 Cor.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:52-53)
We are given the timing of this change: at the Last Trumpet which we know is the Resurrection then the Rapture. In Hebrew culture there were three Trumpets blown. The First Trumpet was blown on Pentecost (to mimic the Trumpet blown by God at Sinai.) The Great Trumpet was blown on Yom Kippur of Jubilee years to announce the Jubilee. The Last Trumpet was blown on Yom Teruah. So when Paul said “at the Last Trumpet” it was a direct reference to Yom Teruah.
The Wedding Feast of the Lamb
The timing of the Wedding Feast (in heaven) can be deduced from Revelation as well. In the scene from Rev. 7 we notice that the great multitude wave palm branches. This is a sign of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles which we have seen is symbolic of the Wedding Feast:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands. (Rev. 7:9)
This reference to palm branches is from Lev.
Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.
To a Jewish believer in John’s day, this was an obvious reference to Tabernacles and the Wedding Feast which is also 7 days long. During the Wedding Feast, the raptured saints will truly be rejoicing before the Lord.
Also we have seen that Jesus will spread his Tabernacle over them another clear reference to the Feast of Tabernacles.
This passage (Rev. 7:9-17) refers to yet another aspect of Tabernacles, the Water Libation Ceremony, known as Nissuch Ha-Mayim in Hebrew.
The Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life (Rev. 7:17)
During his early ministry, Jesus referred to this ceremony while celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem:
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38)
By saying this, Jesus applied the symbolism of this ceremony to himself.
Seven Days or Seven Years?
A question that always arises is whether the symbolism of the 7 day wedding feast should be allegorized or extended to mean 7 years (the 70th Week of Daniel.) Some Pre-Tribulation Rapture supporters take this one step further and suggest that the bride and groom were alone for 7 days prior to the 7 day wedding feast (a total of 14 days).
Let’s answer the later question first. In ancient Jewish marriage customs there was no “wedding ceremony” as we know of today (to the best of our understanding.) Rather the groom took his bride to Father’s House in a long and joyous procession of wedding guests. The couple then retired to the Chuppah and in privacy physically consummated the wedding. It was this physical consummation that declared the couple “married.”
Virginity of the bride was a very important aspect of what she brought to the marriage. A rather “gross” tradition (by our western standards) was the groom producing a bloody cloth as proof of her virginity after the consummation. (This is mentioned in Deut. 22:13-21). The “evidence of virginity” as Deuteronomy calls it was given to the groomsman, who had the joy to announce the couple “married” to the assembled guests. This is what John the Baptist spoke of:
He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. (John 3:29)
The marriage procession (pictured in the graphic at the top of the page), the presentation of the cloth, and the announcing of the consummation make no sense if the guests don’t arrive until a week later. There is no historic proof of this Pre-Trib fairy tale and no biblical proof either,
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) is about the bridegroom coming for his bride. There actually are very few primary source documents from the time of Jesus that highlight the customs of that era. This parable is one, but there are some unusual features about it since it’s a parable NOT an actual account.
The most unusual feature of the parable is that the bride is not listed directly (by name). Many Pre-Tribulation Rapture supporters assume the 10 virgins are attendants of the bride. There are some English translations of Matt. 25 that improperly translate “virgins” as “bridesmaids. The majority of the rest of the Church rightly assume that all 10 are those desiring to be the Bride.
The only way that the “virgins” could be attendants of the Bride and still enter the Wedding Feast (Matt. 25:10) would if the Rapture occurred seven years earlier (prior to the 70th Week) and that this parable is set at the Second Coming. (Obviously everyone who is a Christian at the time of Jesus’s return enters as the Bride). That interpretation has numerous insurmountable problems:
- As we have seen above, this interpretation is completely inconsistent with ancient Jewish marriage customs which preclude the marriage taking place seven days prior to the feast.
- Jesus is listed as the “Bridegroom.” If he was truly married seven years earlier he would be referred to as a “husband.”
- All ten virgins are asleep prior to the midnight cry that the bridegroom is coming. If the Pre-Tribulation Rapture interpretation of this parable is correct, this would mean the virgins are sleeping during the Great Tribulation! A pretty nonsensical thought: sleeping during intense persecution.
- The Pre-Tribulation Rapture interpretation has no good explanation for the “torches” (Gk: LAMPAS)that the virgins carry. These are not simple lamps, but are torches.
The Pre-Wrath interpretation, however, is completely consistent with all these factors and more.
- Those who desire to be the Bride are represented by ten virgins, all trying to keep themselves pure. Ten is the number of completeness, so this is the complete number of church-goers; not all are saved Christians, however. This is Jesus’s point in the parable. The churches are full of wise and foolish.
- All ten fall asleep. “Sleep” is defined as alertness or watchfulness. “let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” (1 Thess. 5:6). This is a critical factor. Most of the “Church” is not watching for the true signs of Jesus’s return. Many believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Many others will believe in a Roman Antichrist. This includes the wise virgins. Even the wise virgins (saved church-goers) are asleep.
- The announcement is made that the bridegroom is coming. This precedes the coming of the bridegroom. All the churchgoers will realize what is going on when the Antichrist sits in the Temple of God in Jerusalem and begins the Great Tribulation! This announcement happens at midnight, the darkest hour. John 9:4 refers to the coming Great Tribulation as the “night.” “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:4)
- The church-goers will then light their torches which are representative of the testimony of Jesus within us. This same Greek word “torch” (LAMPAS) was used in the Septuagint in Genesis to represent God as he walked between the cut animals when he made the covenant with Abraham. It was used in the Gideon account for the torches that Gideon hid beneath the jars of clay. When they were broken, the light shines forth. Paul refers to us as Jars of Clay. When Christians are broken their light shines.
- The foolish virgins have no oil (Holy Spirit) to keep their lamps burning. They may want to testify about Jesus through the Great Tribulation, but without the Spirit, their flesh lacks the strength. They fall away and most likely commit apostasy.
- The wise virgins, however, continue their bright, shining testimony throughout and enter the marriage feast with the bridegroom.
The question most Pre-Tribulation Rapture supporters ask at this point is: ” Would that mean Jesus has more than one bride?” No, it means Jesus has one bride made up of many people; which is obvious! In order to contrast the wise and foolish, Jesus separated those wanting to be the Bride into two groups in the parable.
So in conclusion, ancient Jewish marriage customs are a depiction of events in Jesus’s first and soon-to-be second coming.The ancient seven-day marriage feast is a depiction of the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, and is clearly mentioned in Rev. 7 and Rev. 19.