Weddings today are often a grand event, many costing many thousands of dollars. Fewer couples are getting married in a church. Many rent a special event center; some even go out of country for their ceremony. As a result, many young couples start out their married life with the burden of financial debt. One of our friends suggests that couples should elope, save all the money they would have spent on a big, fancy wedding, and use the money as a down payment on a house; then after they have been married five years have a big celebration with family and friends. Sounds like a great idea!
Prospective wives spend months, even years, planning and preparing for the big day: reserving a site for the wedding and for the reception, finding the perfect dress, ordering dresses for all the attendants, ordering flowers and food, even creating a website to track their preparations—and for places to order their wedding gifts! Often the couple will send out a “Save-the-Date” card, inviting their family and friends to reserve that day so they can attend the wedding.
Although the phrase “bride of Christ” is not in the New Testament, the idea appears throughout (II Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23-27; Rev. 19:7; 21:9), providing great insight concerning our union with Christ, the “Bridegroom.” It pictures the intimacy we enjoy with Him, like that of a husband and wife—the most private, personal bond possible in life. Christ’s love for believers, called “the church,” is the model for a husband’s love for his wife (Eph. 5:25). John the Baptist first used this analogy . He taught that Christ is the Bridegroom, and believers are His bride. John referred to himself as “the friend of the bridegroom” (the “best man”) (Jn. 3:28-30).
In the marriage custom of the first century, parents of a young man selected a bride for their son. The parents then called in a man who acted as a negotiator called “the friend of the bridegroom” (Jn. 3:29). He made all the wedding arrangements and ceremonially presents the bride to the groom. Until then, the groom didn’t speak. Marriage ceremonies involved two stages: the betrothal and the wedding. At the betrothal (similar to our “engagement”), the families of the bride and groom met and the young man would give the young woman either a gold ring or some article of value or simply a document in which he promised to marry her. The bridegroom’s family paid the dowry, and the couple exchanged vows, becoming legally bound to one another as husband and wife. The young man would say to his bride: “See by this ring/or token that you are set apart for me according to the Law of Moses and Israel (Jacob).” A betrothal, unlike our “engagements,” could only be broken by divorce.
The actual wedding didn’t take place until months (often a year) later at a time generally determined by the bridegroom’s father (cf Mt. 24:36). During the betrothal period, the couple remained separated while the bridegroom prepared a home for his bride in the midst of his family or clan, a place where the new couple could live in the shadow of his father. One of the expressions for marriage in that culture was “adding a room to your father’s tent” (cf Jn. 14:1-3). Meanwhile the bride was to keep herself pure and prepare herself for married life, and wait in excited anticipation for the bridegroom to come and get her. When he finally came, he would take her to his father’s house for the wedding ceremony and festivities. Along the way, the “wedding parade” would be joined by many friends and neighbors in a very joyous procession. At the father’s house there would be a wedding feast—usually lasting a week— to celebrate the happy occasion. The bride was then led to her place under a canopy beside her husband, where the “friend of the bridegroom” would pronounce his benediction upon the newlyweds.
The wedding customs are quite a picture of how we, “chosen and drawn by the Father” to be the bride for His Son (Eph. 1:4; Jn.6:44; Heb. 13:20), have been betrothed to Christ, the Bridegroom, and sealed by the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee/pledge of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13,14). We are preparing ourselves for the Bridegroom to reappear and take us to His Father’s House for the wedding ceremony (Jn. 14:1-3). Then will come the wedding feast, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-9).
When will this big day come; when our Bridegroom comes to take us to His Father’s house? Just as in the marriage customs of the first century, only the Father knows. Jesus had been telling His disciples about the final events that will take place on earth before His Kingdom is set up and His disciples responded, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3). Jesus shared with them some of the signs of His coming, but then added,“But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mt. 24:36). In other words, there is no “Save-the-Date” card for our Lord’s return. We are to be ready at all times. Jesus said, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Mt. 25:13).
Jesus did, however give a couple “signs” to watch for regarding the time of His return: “just as it was in the days of Noah…and the days of Lot…It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Lk. 17:26-30 cf Mt. 24:37). As you read about the condition of mankind before the Flood when “the wickedness of man was great on the earth and every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5), and the conditions in Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot lived before God destroyed them for their wickedness and sexual perversion (Gen. 18,19), you realize that is very descriptive of our world as well. (Ro. 1:18-32; I Tim. 4:1-3;; II Tim. 3:1-7) also describe the conditions of the “later times” before Christ returns, and, again, describe the world in which we live. When you add to these “signs” all the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel, the “time clock of the Bible,” you know that His return must be soon. We may not know what “day or hour,” but we are not to be oblivious to “the signs of the times” (Mt. 16:2,3). We need to recognize that Jesus could return at any moment to take His bride to the Father’s house. We need to be prepared and watchful. First, we need to “be diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…” (II Pet. 3:10), i.e., make sure you have put your faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone for your eternal life, and then “…abide in Him, so that when he appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28). We need to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:12,13). We should keep ourselves in a state of spiritual readiness, “because you do not know the day or the hour.” Live each day as if it He might return today—He could! We should live such that we will “love His appearing” (II Tim. 4: 8). “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).