Bible Prophecy and the Return of Jesus
The Rapture and the Jewish Wedding Model...
by I Gordon
I read an amusing little limerick the other day that made me laugh. It read
God's plan had a hopeful beginning
But man ruined it all by his sinning
We trust that the story
Will end in God's glory
But at present the other side's winning!
Now, it was written by an unbeliever... someone who is obviously cynical to the truths of Christianity. And quite probably, for someone who is just looking in from the outside and knows very little about the Bible, it does look like the 'other side's winning.' But for those who know the God of the Bible, and know something of the wonderful plan that He is unfolding for His bride, the cynic's limerick above couldn't be further from the truth!
This study then is about God's plan. And it is a wonderful plan for those who know Him. And at the heart of it all is a wedding and a marriage that is truly 'made in Heaven!'
The Divine Romance
You see, at the heart of the Bible is a love story. It is the divine romance. It fills the Old Testament where the nation of Israel is seen as the wife of Jehovah, and it stretches throughout the new where the Church is shown to be the bride of Christ. God's intention, right from the Garden of Eden, is to have a people separated for Himself... a bride! John was given a vision of that wonderful day -
Rev 21:2-4 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ' Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, let's just back up a step. You see, to understand the Lord's plan in receiving a bride for Himself, we must understand the steps involved in the Jewish wedding. Jesus often spoke of these weddings in his parables and by gaining insight into this earthly Jewish marriage  we can see wonderful truths and implications for our Heavenly union with the Lord. I will touch briefly on the early stages of this process, with the majority of the study focusing on that which is still to come for the church.
The initial stages of the Jewish Wedding Model
It was normally the father of the groom who would initiate the selection of the bride for his son by contacting the woman's father. Genesis 24 contains a great example of this where Abraham sends his servant to find a bride for his son Isaac  . In like manner, the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to receive a bride for His son, the Lord Jesus. And those 'in Christ' have been chosen by God for this very purpose! (Eph 1:4)
But things don't come cheap you know! The father of the bride would then ask what the groom was willing to pay for his bride. Using the example in Gen 24, we see that gifts were given to Rebekah and her family to pay this price (Gen 24:51-53), Jesus had to pay far more for us however! May we never get 'used to' what He did!
1 Peter 1:18 tells us of the price which Jesus was willing to pay for His bride  .
'For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed...but with the precious blood of Christ...'
Once the bride to be had agreed to the marriage, a contract was written up which gave the responsibilities of each party and the agreed price to be paid. This process was usually completed by the drinking of wine from a shared cup. And even though the marriage ceremony was still to take place in the future, it was now a legal and binding marriage. This completed the 'betrothal' phase of the marriage. Now, I'm sure you understand the significance of this, but without wanting to insult your intelligence, let me spell it out anyway. The agreement that Jesus has with His bride is the 'New Covenant'. At the last supper before going to the cross he spoke of this agreement and shared the cup of wine with His disciples.
Luke 22:19-20 'He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you .'
Going to prepare a place...
The groom would at this stage return to his father's house to prepare a place for his bride and it could be up to a year later (or more if they were 'betrothed' as children) before he finally returned for his bride. This of course, is the very promise Jesus gave the Church when He said
John 14:2-3 '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 .'
It was Paul's concern that during this period, the bride would be faithful to her husband to be, as shown in 2 Cor 11:2
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.
It is also why James would speak of spiritual 'adultery' towards God when the saints become worldly. (See James 4:3-6) It was then necessary for the bride to wait and to be ready for his return. Amid trumpets and celebration, the groom would then take his bride back to his father's house where the wedding ceremony would proceed. This fantastic day is described to us in 1 Thess 4:16-17
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. Oh Yeah! Bring it on!!! 
And that's where things get interesting...
Well, that's not to say they haven't been interesting yet! But I was fascinated to learn that after the ceremony back at the father's house (which was only attended by a few select guests), there was a seven day feast period  where the bride and groom would enter their bridal chamber. Now, if you know anything about Bible prophecy, you will probably have heard of a seven year period set aside at the end of the age called 'the tribulation' or 'Daniel's 70th week' (Dan 9:20-27). In fitting with the Jewish wedding model, where the bride was taken back to the home of the groom and hidden in the bridal chamber (Hebrew: 'chupah') for the seven day period, so shall it be with the Lord and the seven year period of tribulation that is to come. The Lord shall return for his bride, to hide her within the bridal chamber at His Father's house, for that seven year period of wrath upon the earth. An interesting prophecy which I believe relates to this time is in Isaiah 26:19-21.
'But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.
Verse 19 is a picture of the resurrection. 'Your dead will live... their bodies will rise'. We know that at the return of Christ for His bride, there will be a resurrection for those that are alive will not go ahead of the believers in Christ who have died before He returns. No, the dead in Christ shall rise first and then the believers who are alive will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air! (1 Thes 4:17).
Go, my people, enter your rooms (literally: chamber as in KJV & NKJV) and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.
Verse 20 states perfectly what the model of Jewish wedding shows. That is, after the resurrection at the return of Jesus, the bride then enters the bridal chamber. The reason for this time of protection, as stated in the verse above, is because God's wrath is about to be poured out on the earth. Thank the Lord that we will never experience His wrath! 
See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer
Finally, at the end of the seven years, the Lord will leave Heaven again as He returns to earth to judge its inhabitants. It is at this stage that the 'day of vengeance' is said to be in His heart. (See Isaiah 63:1-6) Then shall come the reign of Jesus on earth in fulfilment of all those who have prayed 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.'
Time for another feast I think!
While the wedding of the Lamb has taken place in Heaven  , there is still a celebration and feast yet to be had in Jesus' kingdom on earth. You see, the nation of Israel is to be remarried! Check out the footnote for more info. 
What a day that will be! A day when the saints of all ages are joined together in celebration of a mighty God... a mighty husband. A day when peace and joy shall reign and tears shall be no more. If I can say one last thing, it would be this - make sure you are there! It has been the plan of God from eternity past that He would have a wife. Don't miss out on that. Today is the 'day of salvation' and God wills that none should perish. If you are a Christian already, then are you living for the Lord? The time is short and the night is coming when no man can work.
I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 8:11)
On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples , a banquet of aged wine - the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)
'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb .' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel , like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Rev 21:9-11)
He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Rev 22:20)
 ↩ Just a quick comment... I'm not Jewish. So while I have tried to find out what I can concerning the Jewish marriage from their encyclopedias, I am in debt to other Jewish Messianic scholars such as Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum and Dr Renald Showers who know far more about their own culture than I ever would. In fact, Dr Renald Showers' article touches on other aspects that this one doesn't so you would do well to read through his article found here: http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/jewish_marriage_customs.htm
I also want to acknowledge Jerry Dart's book 'After the rapture' as this has a very good chapter concerning the Jewish wedding and its prophetic implications and it has helped in my understanding on this topic. Also the commentaries of H.A Ironside and William Newel on the book of Revelation have helped.
 ↩ I really like the fact that Rebekah agreed to become the wife of Isaac even before she had even seen him. It is just the same for us! See 1 Pet 1:8, John 20:29.
 ↩ See also 1 Cor 6:19, Acts 20:28. Think also of the parable that Jesus told of the merchant who sold all that he had to purchase the great pearl! Who was this merchant who did this? Yeah, you know! It was He who was willing to give His all for us!
 ↩ Please note that the words in bold in this quotation are not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts. Actually, they aren't found in any Greek manuscripts. They are simply the thoughts of the author :o)
 ↩ This feast or wedding supper back at the Father of the groom's house, is announced in Rev 19:6-8 where it seems that it is guests at the wedding which are making the announcement. This is most probably the Old Testament saints and possibly some of the martyred tribulation saints. (See John 3:27-29 where John the Baptist, representing the last of the Old Testament saints, said that he wasn't part of the bride, but was a friend of the bridegroom. Never fear though! Israel is to be a wife as well and will not miss out! I'll discuss this at the end of this study. )
 ↩ I read a great illustration recently that brought this back home to me. It was of the pioneers who were making their way across one of the central states in the U.S. They travelled in wagons pulled by oxen so progress was painfully slow. One day they were horrified to see a line of fire and smoke stretching out across the horizon in front of them. And it was being blown towards them at a great speed! No one knew what to do... they couldn't outrun it, and there was no river to take shelter in. Finally, one man gave a command to set fire to the ground behind them. Then when that spaced had been burned, the whole company moved back upon it. Some remained fearful saying 'are you sure that we will be alright?' But the man replied 'My child, the flames cannot reach us here for we are standing where the fire has already been!'
What a fantastic picture of those safe in Christ. The fires of God's judgement burned themselves out on Christ 2000 years ago, and all who are in Christ, are safe forever, for they are standing where the fire has already been. The church will not, and cannot experience the wrath of God for this very reason. He will make sure His bride is safe before unleashing His wrath upon the earth. See 1 Thes 1:10, 5:9, Rom 5:9, Rev 3:10, Psalm 27:5.
 ↩ H.A Ironside, in his book 'Lectures on the Revelation' (page 319-320) writes 'It seems very plain to me that the marriage of the Lamb takes place in Heaven... It also seems very plain to me that there is a very real difference between the wife of Jehovah... and the bride of the Lamb.'
In like manner, William Newell, in 'Revelation: A complete commentary' writes about Rev 19:6 saying 'Where is the marriage, with its attending marriage supper, celebrated? The answer can only be - in Heaven, for the scene is wholly heavenly. No one can read verse 6 without coming to this conclusion.' Newel also sees the difference between the bride of Christ, and Israel as the wife of Jehovah. He writes 'When Jehovah returns to Israel in millennium blessing, Isaiah 62:4,5 will be fulfilled, as will Isaiah 54:4,5... This is an earthly scene, and must be contrasted with the marriage of the Heavenly bride, the wife of the Lamb.' (Page 295-296)
Also see Dr. Renald Showers article here: http://www.ifca.org/voice/7Jan-Feb/lamb.htm
 ↩ Israel O'Israel! So blessed, so disobedient, and yet, so loved! In his book 'Footsteps of the Messiah', Arnold Fruchtenbaum discusses the six stages of Israel's marriage relationship with Jehovah. Here is a quick and nasty summary...
Stage One - The Marriage Contract - Deut 5:1-3. The prophets saw this covenant as a marriage contract and spoke of it in the words used of the wedding night. See Ezek16:8 for example.
Stage Two - The Great Adultery - Jer 3:1-5,20, Ezek 16:15-34
Stage Three - The Separation - Because of the adultery, in the days of Isaiah a separation took place. Isaiah 50:1.
Stage Four - The Divorce - Jer 3:6-10
Stage Five - The Punishment - Ezek 16:35-43, Hos 2:6-13
Stage Six - The Remarriage - The Jewish prophets did not leave things hopeless! They spoke of a time when the nation of Israel will again become the restored wife of Jehovah. This required a brand new marriage contract, which is found in Jer 31:31-34, Ezek 16:60-63. It is also described in Isa 54:1-8, 62:4-5 and Hosea 2:14-23.